Alternative Tourism as a Way of Social Integration and Saving Money
High criticism of mass tourism and its negative influence on recreation areas generated the appearing of alternative tourism, which includes included soft, green, small-scale, nature, and integrated tourism. Alternative tourism is as a method of close connection with natural, social and community valuableness and the possibility of neutralization of negative effects on destination areas, environment, and population without decreasing positive economic effects. The most widespread modern alternative forms of traveling allowing social integration and saving money comprise couch surfing and hitchhiking. This essay aims at describing a modern way of doing tourism using personal traveling experience and support from scientific recourses. Moreover, it provides a representation of the culture of hospitality and transformation of contemporary tourism and travel practice.
Last summer my friend and I decided to make a tour of Europe, which most people associate with comfortable hotels, sightseeing, taking photos of historical monuments and sitting in a cozy cafe. However, we had only 300$ each in our pockets and incredible wish to make our trip come true, therefore, we decided to engage in such an experiment of hitchhiking and couch surfing.
During the next two and a half weeks, we were wandering around the Europe. We had been visited such countries as Hungary, Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, and Poland. About six days we spent in Spain and 2-3 days in other countries. In Poland, we stayed only for one day, spent for arriving home by hitchhiking. Almost every day we arrived in a new city, met new people, and saw different styles of architecture.
During the trip, we tried various methods for saving our money, thus, I can give some pieces of advice for budget travelers. A significant amount of money we spent on transports, accommodation, and food. Firstly, people can cut their expenses if they use low-cost airlines. The best way is to buy tickets a month or two beforehand, hence, getting them at a lower price. Another suggestion that helps to save money is the traveling by buses rather than trains because the latter is the most expensive transport. However, in some countries, for example, in France, a traveler can buy a one-day ticket and visit different cities during a day. For such an adventure, I recommend route Toulon- Saint-Raphael-Cannes-Nice. Finally, the cheapest and the most excitement way of traveling is hitchhiking. However, in Italy and Spain it works worse in comparison with northern European countries. The best country for hitchhiking is Poland. For instance, we changed six cars there and stayed on a road just for 10 min.
Secondly, the best way save money on accommodation is couch surfing. This internet community has existed already for 20 years and unites hospitable people over the world. In any country, a traveler can get free accommodation, friendly company, and a city guide. People leave references on a web page to let other people know whether it is worth dealing with some particular host. We stayed by couch surfing in Budapest and Barcelona. Both hosts were Spanish men. Budapest’s host even permitted us to stay in his apartment in his absence. However, couch surfing is not working all the time especially when people have few references. A night bus is one more way to solve accommodation problem. We used bus hosting while traveling from Barcelona to Alicante and from Barcelona to France. It is not so comfortable for sleeping. Nevertheless, one can always find some positive moments, for instance, if one’s way comes along the seacoast, one can take a couple of hours nap on the beach.
Thirdly, during the traveling food is a crucial issue. If people walk about 10 km a day, they need to renew their energy. In our case, we took some pork from home. With the combination of tomatoes, such lunch will be enough for the satisfaction of any hunger. A hungry traveler can buy tomatoes in local Asian shops, which have a very considerable price. For sure, in south-European countries, one should try their marvelous cheese and wine. Moreover, in public gardens, we found out oranges. Local people consider them not very tasty, unlike such poor tourist as we were. Furthermore, a traveler can save money on water. The pump rooms set up on every corner in Spain.
The most challenging situations awaiting during the adventure were homeless people in Barcelona and in a village near Alicante, collecting food in a public garden, hitchhiking, and staying with local people by means of couch surfing. This adventure trip enforced us to forget our social rules and requirements and live a life full of impressions. Many of my friends who passed through a similar experience admitted that they feel the same. They all draw the same conclusion that less money people have more adventures they get.
Scientific researchers consider such kind of tourism as alternative tourism or non-massive. According to Doctor of Economics of London School of Economics, Nicholas Vagionis, alternative tourism has some distinctive features. Firstly, non-massive tourist chooses unique destinations and, in such a way, develops a local economy. Secondly, if a mass tourist usually chooses development regions, a lover of alternative tourism prefers exploit social and natural resources. Thirdly, alternative tourism better integrates into the social structure.
Mass tourism activities reliant highly on climatic conditions. Consequently, people consider it as sea-sun-sand tourism, which reach high peak and high facility during summer months. Mass tourism consists of large tourist groups, fixed programs organized by tour operators and travel agencies. While as, alternative tourism consist of small groups, families and singles, and could take place all year round to create different activities.
Standard tours do not satisfy people anymore. They expect to involve in the societies and cultures they visit deeper. Gada Mahrouse in her research work Feel good tourism: The ethical option for socially-conscious Westerners provides opinions of several people about their vacation based on the results from interviews. One of them said, “We found it an interesting way to travel. I think I’ve been on one cruise, but that really isn’t our thing – on beaches, lying on the beaches isn’t our thing”. Most respondents felt sorry that local people serve them. They want to see them more like friends and know their life and culture. Nowadays, traveling is not only about seeing well-known places, but also about exploring and experiencing them. The new tourism movement is to travel with a heart, a soul, and a sense of integrity.
Furthermore, during the last 20 year, with the development of the internet communication, such voluntary organization as couch surfing has become the one of the preferable methods of involving people into a local life. Founded in 2004 it has attracted travelers from 239 countries. The couch surfing project derives from the idea that it is possible for the travelers to stay at homes of other. According to the principal content of the innovation, in such way, they deepen contact with other cultures and make it easy to exchange knowledge, the collective conscience, and understanding.
Couch surfers often notice that they do not know what will happen once they enter the house of a host. They usually maintain that an alternative tourism is not only about the traveler, but also about the contact and exchange created between host and guest. However, couch surfing is not perfect in a sense of free accommodation. The arguments to travel using couch surfing website are always headed in the same direction: people admit that the economic advantages are an important factor to choose couch surfing. However, it was never the decisive one, as the perspective to meet new people and visit a place in a different fashion was also fundamental.
Another form of social integration is hitchhiking, which is a way of traveling by asking drivers for a ride in their car or other road vehicles. Such ride traveling is usually free.
In the research work Hitchhikers’ paradise: The intersection of mass mobility, consumer demand and ideology in the People’s Republic of Poland, Mark Keck-Szajbel wrote that the popularity of hitchhiking exceeds its borders and connects foreigners from different states interested in taking advantage of this mode of travel. By allowing youth to avoid the dust of industrial cities, hitchhiking appreciates getaway tactic, which gave travelers sense of freedom and control over their lives and everyday routine. The rise in people’s mobility and the appearance of mass tourism inspired other important developments as well.
There is some tendency to development alternative tourism in post-soviet countries. As Joseph Boots Allen note in his dissertation What About the Locals?: The Impact of State Tourism Policy and Transnational Participation on Two Central Asian Mountain Communities through the soviet time tourist industry in Kazakhstan was totally depend of the state government. However, today a positive trend appear as a development of many small, low-impact, upscale trekking firms. The significant change is that the state has turned away from the non-market, earned-and-prescribed approached, to a market orientation where the goal is developing the industry, involvement private investment, and advancement leisure services for their sale on the open market.
By the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, new features have appeared in tourism as well. Tourists mostly have a higher educational background; the spending of such tourists is higher than average, and tourists are coming from rather high-developed countries.
In conclusion, alternative tourism is considered a kind of tourism, where the main goal of tourists is the physical and cultural environment of the destination. They aim at engaging themselves in passive cultural sightseeing as well as active sports activities, based on a local social and natural resources. Such kinds of social organizations as couch surfing or hitchhiking practice have surely helped the societies to make the world better. For example, non-massive tourist chooses a unique destination and, in such a way, develops the local economy.