Please Don’t Write About Us

Can’t you kindly keep a secret?

A few moments ago, I had that OH SHIT moment again when my favorite magazine penned yet another article highlighting great places in the world to head to because all the other popular places are getting so overpriced that most of us average folks can’t afford them.

Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, Sparky, but what were you thinking?

Because for those of us who live, have lived, and are now getting the hell out of those very places that this magazine (and other publications) have touted as THE NEXT BIG PLACE HUGE SECRET DON’T TELL ANYONE, we have experienced and paid the price for their sharing what we’d kindly like to keep quiet. Thousands if not millions have moved to those “secret” places, and in the process, effectively trashed them. Didn’t mean to (well, most folks didn’t mean to) but they often did.

Because as I’ve written elsewhere, and is proved out daily, when we “get away from it all” we have an unfortunate habit of “bringing it all” with us.

This has been the experience of lots of lovely mountain towns and sweet spots that publications love to tout. Now many are off the special places list because, well, they aren’t so special any more. The locals are resentful, cars with certain license plates are, well, let’s just say unwelcome, and lots of original folks are pulling up roots and getting out of Dodge, because it’s not Dodge any more. At least not their Dodge.

Does this make me selfish? Most likely. However, let’s put it this way. How about you ask all my fellow Denverites what it’s like to lose our ethnic neighborhoods to gentrification, the quiet mountain spaces to teeming crowds of folks who often leave their campfires untended to start massive fires, the open roads turned into parking lots in aspen leaf peeping season, and all the other things that used to make my town so great? What it’s like to have the housing market so expensive (the most expensive non-coastal market in the country) with such taxes that force people out so far they can’t commute to work?

How about you ask anyone who grew up in California, or western Washington State, or Boise? Or small sweet towns in the Carolinas or the woods just about anywhere it’s pretty, or there’s a beach, or there’s something appealing?

Let’s watch what happens to sleepy Cody Wyoming, now that mindless idiot Kanye West has put the place on the map. Not that I have an opinion about the man. Again, that’s just me. I think he’s a walking Chernobyl but some folks find that fascinating.

Cody, Wyoming, has no clue what it’s in for. Despite all the stories of Western towns around them, there is this notion that what has happened to Aspen and Breckenridge and Jackson Hole and all the other spots can’t possibly happen here.

Kinda, yes. It probably will. Because when you arbitrarily relocate folks to tiny rural areas, people without roots or history where you live, you have just effectively completely overhauled your small town, rightly or wrongly. The value set that once determined how folks behaved and treated one another is now diluted. It’s anyone’s guess what lands in its place, but that’s the Russian Roulette that the economic development people play with quality of life when you invite someone like Kanye West out West.

One of the sad behaviors of what I might refer to as in-country immigrants is their withering judgment laid onto the locals. They might think they’re quaint, or bumpkins, or unsophisticated if they as a city person think that the locals are morons for not knowing who Lizzo or Snooki might be. Those celebrities aren’t necessarily relevant to the local’s lives, but that doesn’t make them bumpkins. To my mind it makes them a lot more discerning about what really matters: community issues, local politics, climate change and how it affects their crops, mountains, snow and everyday lives.

I’m not saying that West’s employees are going to do that when they settle in to Cody. It is an unfortunate human habit, and because of it, it’s likely. I guess as with all things, we’ll see.

As guests, its our job to learn the culture, not our right to ridicule it, especially if we’ve just moved in to be neighbors. But that’s just me. Doesn’t make me right. But having grown up in tourist country where plenty decided to move in, I have watched this my entire life.

You see where I’m going. That’s why I’m not posting a link to this article. Because as a fellow traveler pointed out, if I write about it, it’s no longer a secret. Of course, the cat is out of the bag, as it were, and the people in those towns, while they may initially love the attention, money and influx of tourists and ex-pats, it won’t take long before they are going to be righteously pissed that their lovely town is not only inundated, but in fact, ruined as a place they want to live any more.

This story is being repeated all over, everywhere.

I’ve written extensively over this past year about leaving Denver and why. Some of us are not city people, and we struggle to embrace the intense traffic issues, the garbage people toss and the garbage behavior they import to where live. I can’t function in a pretty house with a pretty yard which is now surrounded by noise, traffic, increasing pollution, and exceedingly dangerous drivers up and down my quiet street. I’ve almost been killed by those drivers on multiple occasions. I’d like to make it to seventy. It’s clear I’d better get the hell out of town if I want that to happen.

Lots of people cope with those things far better than I do. I’m a small town farm girl now surrounded by very big city. I didn’t sign up for that, any more than those whose houses are too expensive for them to continue to inhabit.

Again, this is everywhere.

You would be right to point out that by selling and moving, I am potentially part of the problem. Except that how we move, and how we behave when we move (or travel) to a new place, have everything to do with whether we’re presents or pests.

Like anyone else who loves to discover the gems that other travelers have unearthed, I’d like to have seen the spots that the magazine writers have highlighted. But I won’t. Because there are going to be far too many people booking flights and driving there, which is exactly what I’m trying to avoid.

I am in no way saying that we are bad for wanting to visit or move to special places. Not in the slightest. It’s how we show up when we get there that matters.

One of the spots identified in this article is a town where I was considering buying a house. Not now. It’s scratched off the list. Because in no time those reasonable-for-now house prices will skyrocket in part because of this widely-read piece. The article states- for good reason- that “the locals would prefer that you and I don’t know” about the long list of features and opportunities there.

Good reason for that, folks. Very good reason for that.

I don’t have the answers. All I know is that it really serves all of us, when we travel and when and if we choose to move, to put in some time to learn to value and appreciate where we’re headed as opposed to trying to overhaul it in our image. We’ve done that all over the world (please see colonizing and missionary work as Exhibits 1 and 2). I’m convinced it’s how we’re wired.

For my part, I’d like for those who welcome me into their neighborhoods to be happy I landed there. For the places where I travel to have no evidence of my passing through. That way, I get asked back. Which is why, when I stumble on a genuinely secret gem, kindly, I’m not going to write about it. It deserves to stay that way. Some diamonds deserve to remain in the rough.

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Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

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Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

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