My name’s Tawna and I’m a travel addict. I’m consumed by an urge to explore, whether it’s snorkeling in Fiji, bathing elephants in Laos, or camping near my Bend home base.
I’ve been hugged by a vendor in Morocco who sobbed that my handful of cash would feed her family for a week, and I’ve been cursed at by locals who thought tourists like me spoiled their slice of paradise. All this to say, I get it. Folks have mixed feelings for those of us driven to shoulder our packs, cram skis in the car, or haul suitcases brimming with souvenirs.
While it’s good to be mindful of the impact you have on your destination, here are 10 reasons it’s pretty darn awesome to travel.
Look what we have in common!
Turn on the TV and you’ll see strangers screaming across the political aisle. Now turn off the TV and plan a vacation someplace new. That’s where you’ll learn you’ve got plenty in common with strangers outside your own bubble.
Sometimes you’ve gotta bridge language or cultural barriers to meet a guy in a hut in the Amazon jungle who loves his family and gets spooked by big bugs the same way you do. Other times, you only need to travel a few miles to find a fondness for craft beer or a love of live music unites you with folks you might otherwise see as “not like me.”
Nothing connects you to humanity like learning what you share with people you’ve never met. Despite what those talking heads tell you on TV, we’re more alike than we think.
Supporting our neighbors
Pop quiz: What did you do the last time you traveled? Detailed list, please.
If your roundup includes things like “ate at a restaurant” or “took a canoe tour,” congratulations. You helped put food on the table for a waitress, a bartender, or the owner of a tour company who wasn’t sure their small business would survive the pandemic.
It feels icky sometimes to see humans as commodities or to think in terms of tourism revenue, and you know what? None of that moves me to travel. But knowing my love of exploring––plus my habit of tipping generously—can help buy school clothes for someone’s kid? That gives me more warm fuzzies than the cocoa I drank on my last snowshoe tour.
More concerts! More restaurants!
In no special order, here are some things I love about Bend: Summer concerts at Hayden Homes Amphitheater. Cool Bend eateries like 900 Wall and Boxwood Kitchen. Special activities like snowmobiling or treating my kids to an epic biking/hiking/swimming waterfall bonanza on the Paulina Plunge.
After 13 years working for Visit Bend and seeing how the sausage is made (so to speak) I can say with certainty most of those things wouldn’t exist without out-of-town guests supporting them.
Am I bummed that Dave Matthews Band tickets sold out before I’d logged on to the Live Nation site? Sure. But can I acknowledge my beloved DMB wouldn’t come here at all without visitor volumes to support big shows like that? Yessir.
And can I admit that when I hit Portland for a concert or Salem for wine tasting or Ashland for a play, the tickets I bought might otherwise go to a local? Yes again.
Do I trust it all evens out and that everyone benefits when folks travel to other towns and spread money around? Indeed.
Am I ready to stop creepily addressing myself in hypothetical questions? Maybe.
Thanks for the piano
When you slept in a Bend hotel, you brought the Annual Piano Showcase to the Tower Theatre. Your stay at a Bend vacation rental paved the way for Bend’s Junteenth celebration later this year.
Since its inception in 2015, the Bend Cultural Tourism Fund has awarded $1,632,085 to nearly 100 arts and culture events around Central Oregon. The source of these grants comes straight from room tax collections at hotels in the Bend city limits. In other words, your Bend motel stay brought concerts, film festivals, and art exhibits here for all to enjoy.
While Bend’s program is unique, we’re hardly the only town using TRT (transient room tax) dollars to fund cool things for our community. Yet another reason to book that vacation in good conscience.
Thanks for the fire trucks, too
Arts and culture’s not the only realm where TRT dollars do good work. Oregon law requires a percentage of TRT to go back into tourism promotion, but that’s not where most money goes.
In Bend, 65-percent of TRT goes to the city’s general fund, which pays for things like police, fire, street maintenance, and other core services. Travelers to Bend funnel a whopping $10 million a year into the general fund, so if you have a fender bender on vacation, rest assured you helped pay for the friendly police officer who comes to help. Thanks for that!
Show tenderness for the trails
Speaking of room tax dollars funding great causes, have you heard about the Bend Sustainability Fund? It’s another way we’re investing tourist revenue into spaces and places that make Bend special.
From creating hiking trails to restoring the river to building a bike park, the Bend Sustainability Fund supports projects creating sustainable experiences in and around Bend. Since its inception, the fund has awarded $2,290,000 to 17 projects in the area.
Basically, those nights you spent bunking down at a Bend hotel make it possible to stroll from said hotel to the cool new access point for floating the river this summer.
Around the globe, more and more tourist towns recognize the need to preserve and protect the scenic and cultural attractions that bring folks there in the first place. Personally, I’m proud to be part of an organization pioneering those efforts.
We can all pitch in
I’m a sucker for animal causes. From working with turtle rescue groups in Central America to supporting landmine-sniffing rats in Cambodia, I’ve spent my share of time and money helping causes I love.
That’s one thing I adore about Bend, where opportunities abound for voluntourism. Whether you’re into cave cleanup events or trail building projects, there’s tons you can do to leave Bend’s special spaces better than you found them.
Here’s a chance to try new things
Confession: My first and only time on a zipline, I had a full-fledged panic attack while my kids watched in horror. Lesson learned on knowing my limitations (or, yanno, remembering I’m afraid of heights).
But despite that less-than-awesome experience, I’m a huge fan of trying new things on vacation. There’s no better time to try bungee jumping or go whitewater rafting or explore a cave. Something about travel spurs an urge to step outside our comfort zone and make memories doing something new.
Just promise you’ll do a better job than I did at knowing your own phobias.
Diversity for the win!
New cultural traditions, unique languages, different currencies…it’s all catnip to me when traveling. But you needn’t go far to experience different people, places, and traditions.
Whether you venture five miles or 5,000, you’re bound to meet folks who think, look, or act differently than you do, and how cool is that?
Better yet, you might serve as someone else’s reminder that it takes all kinds of folks to make the world go ‘round.
What a wonderful world
Anyone else keep a gratitude journal when traveling? Sometimes, it’s stuff like “I’m glad I can drink tap water at home,” and other times I’m just plain grateful for rivers and lakes and mountains I see on vacation.
There’s tons to be thankful for in Bend, from an abundance of public land for exploring, to the fresh, clean air I get to breathe.
If you’re searching for a little bit of gratitude, I can show you where to find it. See you out on the trails!