Interviews

"We need to reflect on whether we travel to get to know a place or to tell others about it"

  Foto: UOC

Foto: UOC

25/07/2018
Germn Sierra
Celia Lpez, coauthor and editor of the blog Quaderns de Bitcola

 

Celia Lpez has crossed 80 countries and the seven continents. In 2011 she travelled around the world in 200 days and has yet to tire of exploring. We interviewed her two days before she set out on a new adventure. An interior designer by training and traveller by vocation, she's the joint author and editor of the travel blog Quaderns de Bitcola, a community manager and a writer for different travel sites. On 5 July she took part in a webinar organized by Alumni UOC to talk about irresistible destinations. We talk to her about travelling at the summer peak, when swarms of travellers set out for adventure.

 

What makes a destination irresistible?

A variety of ingredients. It should be surprising and linked to your interests, whether that's culture, sport or food. I think an irresistible place is one that offers you unique experiences or that isn't overly touristy and overcrowded. The ten that I recommended for summer 2018 are Malta, Moldavia, the Philippines, South Korea, Cuba, Iran, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Vanuatu.

Some characteristics...

First, they are summer destinations. Malta is commemorating the centenary of the First World War and you can visit a series of battle sites. Valetta is European Capital of Culture this year and is organizing lots of activities. Moldavia is the European country with the least tourism and has a whole world of wineries to discover. Iran has many cultural attractions: it's the cradle of Persian culture, part of the Silk Road and is a very safe country, contrary to what people think. It's also a very hospitable place. In fact, it's the number two country in the world for couchsurfing.

Are travellers wrong to think that the further away the better? Do we miss out on lots of things close to home?

I'm of the opinion that we have lots of places near home to discover and explore that can give other places a run for their money, but I also believe in travelling and discovering other parts of the world. I would say that if you have to travel vast distances to discover somewhere where there isn't a lot of tourism, it's well worth it.

Has Lonely Planet changed and worsened the way we travel? Do we tend to follow the herd and do the same thing?

For many people Lonely Planet is the Bible and I use it myself because I know it very well but I do so precisely to avoid specific places. You know that if they recommend a sunset from a specific temple, it'll be chock-a-block. It's strange but you can read it to find out where to avoid or discover the busiest times in the main attractions just by inverting the order: if Lonely Planet recommends the morning, you go in the afternoon.

What has changed most in global tourism?

One of the biggest changes in how we travel is access to information and the fact that people organize their own trip: this planning has altered everything. There are many sources of information and travellers increasingly check this before they travel. The opinions of other travellers are increasingly more important in decision-making. Travellers are more autonomous because they have more information and attach more value to the experience of other travellers.

Do we travel sustainably?

I'm afraid not. You only have to think about plane fuel. We should also support local tourism, but it's difficult as everyone wants to go far away and there are increasingly more low-cost airlines... It's a hard problem to resolve.

What advice would you offer before travelling?

First and foremost, try to travel off-season. And experiment with the flight search engines at random because you might find yourself going somewhere surprising. I also recommend searching for information on travel blogs because they tell you about more specific things than a guide and are often more personal, original and up-to-date.

Do you think that Instagram has changed our perception of the places we visit? Is taking a photo of a monument more important than enjoying the moment?

Instagram forces people to look for beauty and it's true that the photo is a priority for almost everyone, a tourist habit. But it's the big difference between the traveller and the tourist. The former seeks an experience and the latter collects photos. We need to reflect on how we spend our time when we travel, getting to know the place or telling others about it.

How do you think Barcelona should manage the tourism avalanche?

Despite the complexity of the issue, I think it's about making political decisions. One of the phenomena that this city's tourism suffers is that there are lot of low-cost companies operating, and this in turn attracts low-cost tourism. So we have to ask if this is the kind of tourism we want. And after answering the question and drawing conclusions, we have to make political decisions. We now live immersed in a low-cost world that, let's be honest, also has economic benefits.

What destination would you recommend to readers for their next nearby getaway and long-distance trip?

For their next getaway I would recommend the Basque Country because of its combination of beach, culture and gastronomy. For a long-distance destination, one of my favourites is Iran, because of its hospitality, architecture, cultural heritage and, in general, low level of tourism.