Touron. This is a made up word. This word is English. This word is known and used by people who work in outdoor industries. It is with great displeasure and angst that I even know this word. These people are hurting themselves, the environment, and others. This word is a combination of “tourist” and “moron”. Ladies and Gentleman, meet the “touron”.
Soon it will be two years since I left my life of convention, hit the road, and started exploring the outdoor spaces of this country. I lived outside in campgrounds, natural spaces, with friends and family. I have camped alone, with hoards of people, in fairly remote areas and just outside of the city. I have been hiking and exploring in local, state, and nationally designated regions. I have seen and met a somewhat broad and diverse group of folks. As I write that, however, I am struck that the people I have met are really not as diverse as they could or should be. Perhaps the out-of-doors is not perceived to be a safe place for us all, or perhaps the out-of-doors is not as welcoming as some of us think it is. Diversity, true diversity, in our natural spaces is lacking. Let this be a topic for another day. Moving on…
At an ever increasing frequency, I am witness to people using and abusing our natural ares. I have listened and talked to people who have no business being outside due to their lack of preparation, lack of knowledge, lack of respect, and who just plain don’t know what the hell they are doing. I have met these folks during my own time in the wilderness and worked with them as a seasonal employee. Part of this post is to vent a little about the outright abuse of our natural areas. Careless and recklessness just pisses me off. People who dump their trash, cut down trees, graffiti on rocks, leave human and pet waste all over the place. There are folks out here who just don’t give a shit about the natural world and will use and abuse it as they see fit. Sometimes there are consequences, if they get caught by a park service or other employee. However, due to the remote locations that often accompany these adventures, many will just do what they want with no repercussions. Frustrating and sad.
Wait, but there are repercussions. Those of us who work hard to care for and preserve our natural areas, well, we get to see and live in and possibly even pick up after these morons. We get to move into their camp with the left over dog shit or used tampons or live trees that were cut down for firewood. We get to see their garbage in the fire ring and use the toilet… well, I will leave that one alone for now. While there is no direct negative consequence for the primary offender, the lingering ramifications are staggering and felt by those of us of a preservation mindset.
However, the touron, well, that is just someone who takes it to a new level. This person is generally oblivious to their safety, completely out of touch with preparation, travels as if they are the only person out here and are so far out of their element it is just sad. Scary and sad. This is the lady who took off on a hike with four kids and no map, no extra water, and no snacks. This is the guy who planned a route, ran into trouble, and kept going forward instead of backtracking to the much closer beginning. This is the Prius owner who goes down the clearly marked Jeep road. This is the person renting an RV for the first time who does not know to where they are making a reservation. This is the single parent taking three kids on a canoe trip who has never camped before. These are the unprepared, uninformed, inexperienced, obliviously ignorant people who run a high risk to hurt themself and others, who may need saving, or, God forbid, may even need an all out rescue.
I really want people to experience our natural areas and the breathtaking outdoor spaces we have all over this country. Heck, in the world! I have seen and experienced some amazing things in the out-of-doors and I love nothing more than to share that with others. It is great to see multigenerational families out exploring and learning and sharing the wonder of nature. It does my heart good to see folks out for the first time, stretching beyond their boundaries and every day construct, seeing the stars or mountains for the first time. That makes my heart happy.
Conversely, it pisses me off and hurts my heart when I talk to and interact with and observe people who have literally no business being outside. The touron has done no research, has no resources, is not prepared, and is under the impression that they can do and go and be wherever they want. Tourons hike on closed trails, drive on closed roads, venture out in dangerous weather, park and camp and eat where they choose. Natural formations that take generations to form are damaged, garbage that will never biodegrade is left behind, fragile vegetation forever ruined in the name of fun and frolic. The touron cares not. The touron is ignorantly oblivious. The touron is everywhere.
I understand that we all have to start somewhere. I get that sometimes we have to learn by doing, making some mistakes along the way, and gaining valuable experience that can only come with time. But, man, these places and these natural wonders are irreplaceable and unique and once damaged, may never return to their original state. If you are heading into nature, and if you are inexperienced, please, oh please, take the time to learn and talk to folks and start slow and do your homework. Have emergency plans and back up for your back up. Be patient and work your way forward. I beg of you to stay on the trail, obey the rules, leave no trace – and I mean no fucking trace – and invest in proper quality gear. Hike just a little, camp close to home, visit areas that are in your neck of the woods. Baby steps will help you help yourself.
Take care of our natural world. Respect the power of nature. Embrace the inability of “man” to control any of our natural elements. Be prepared and then prepare yourself again. If you know, teach others. If you don’t know, learn. Be wise, be mindful, be respectful. For the love of God, don’t be a touron. Please. Just don’t.
Cheers to Nature and all the wonders she brings.
Cheers to preserving these wonders for generations to come!