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Off the Path in Götaland

“Allemansrätten.” It is a right granted to every citizen by the nation’s constitution. It is a part of every Swede’s identity. It resides deep in their cultural psyche. “Allemansrätten.” The word means “every man’s right.” It is the freedom to roam. It is the idea of land belonging to the public, a collective large-scale communal garden. It allows access to wander, camp, and forage on uncultivated or unpreserved property. 

I am not a Swede, only visiting. Therefore, this permission is a privilege to me. “Allemansrätten.” I repeat the term while searching for rock pools. I whisper the word as I bypass cows scrutinizing me. I sing it floating in the chilly cove. 

At its core “allemansrätten” is founded upon trust. Trust that such entitlement will be held responsibly, with tenderness. Trust that commercialism won’t abuse the ancient sanction. Trust that individuals will regulate themselves so that wildlife habitats are not disturbed or fragile countryside destroyed. It’s an endearing, idealistic faith in humanity. I benefit from such generosity — a fellow hiker recommends a lingonberry bush for its tasty fruit, a farmer invites me to cut through a paddock as a shortcut, a moored boater counsels me on pristine bays for swimming.

Cynic that I am, I wonder how long this credo will survive. Not all who traipse the wilderness abide by the unspoken rules of “allemansrätten.” How long will it be before used food containers whip past my face at the beach, smashed drink bottles lay underneath a boulder, cigarette burns fan into a brushfire, saplings wither from trafficked routes and overeager hands? 

Companies have begun to harvest the forests for profit, due to increasing organic produce demands. Locals in resort towns complain that summer tourists are leaving rubbish for them to clean up. When will this corner change bit by bit as well? In another decade will there be railings along the cliffs with warning signs? Will trail markers indicate places not to tread? Will fences materialize to keep out “everyman”? Will the ultimate anathema to Swedes, no trespassing notices, become common decorations? 

The ratio of people to space in Sweden is such that, at the moment, all can enjoy the liberty to rove. What happens, however, as travel democratizes, as we commodify, as our species swells into less trammeled tracts? At what point do our collective feet demolish the very expanses we seek? What will be the outcome of the conflict between our impositions and the planet’s ecosystem?   

Is the concept of “allemansrätten” possible to maintain? Can we all go trampling anywhere? If not, who gets to and who doesn’t? Who decides this? How do we limit ourselves while granting each of us the right to wander the earth?

I remind myself of my duty while traipsing. I don’t give in to every pleasure. I’d like to be lazy, but I take out with me everything I bring in. I want to plunge through inviting portals, but stay on trodden paths as much as possible so as not to scar the ecology. I wish I could gorge on nature’s bounty. Instead, I observe rather than collect. 

I even run after the errant napkin that got blown away from my picnic. I want desperately to believe that my small decisions will preserve the enchantment of golden light dripping through native dense canopy. I need to cling to the conviction that my little renunciations will guard the sanctity of silver cascades burbling within a grotto. I have to sustain faith that my mindful travels will extend to future generations the mystery of wilderness.     


Leave No Trace offers educational programs to develop a population knowledgeable about outdoor ethics. To learn more about their initiatives, volunteer, or support their opportunities, check out

Do you think public lands can remain vital biodiverse spaces without limiting access?

I would also like to hear about responsible, sustainable, ecological tips you practice while hiking, camping, and being in rural spaces in the comments below.



135 replies »

  1. We have the same “allmennrett” in Norway (and as it is spelled here). You raise some valid questions. Personally, I think it will prevail. Simply because it’s believed to be such a democratic right in this place of the world, that there will be an uproar if someone tries to mess with it. We see a few place here in Norway, though, where visitors are charged with entrance fee. It’s in places where the amount of tourists is overwhelming and partly introduced to protect the environment. By the way, gorgeous images from Götaland.

    • So happy to hear you enjoyed my Götaland images! So many places around the world are either restricting the amount of visitors allowed or raising entrance fees as a way to curtail the barrage upon the environment. Perhaps this is the best solution. I appreciate your insights into the “allmennrett” and its future in Scandinavia.

  2. A swedish fairy tale seems too good to be true! Nothing will remain untouched where a person passes by! Even with good intentions, we unconsciously sin against nature! Nature wants us to enjoy her beauty, but does not want to be disturbed! But how do you do that without disturbing? Stick to the laws of nature and treat her with respect! Look and learn what nature has to tell you … I enjoyed your photos and your story! Enjoy your day…

    • Thank you so very much for your sweet compliment. I do agree with you that there is no way to live in nature and not disturb it. Rather, as you pointed out, it would be nice if we could all treat our planet with respect, becoming better stewards of both those parts we use and those parts we set aside as “sacred” or “wild.” Wishing you a wonderful week.

  3. Very close to my new home there is a state park with a delicate ecosystem of tide pools that contain all sorts of creatures, visible at low tide. Unfortunately, it was trampled and almost all of them are gone. There are other places you might be able to see those ecosystems, but even in this region where respect for nature is a commonly held belief, there are just too many people who don’t take care, don’t pay attention, don’t understand the credo you experienced in Sweden. We are lucky to be able to experience these places now, before things get worse. I do hope for a better future for the planet, but humans have to change. Beautiful photographs!

    • Thank you!…Your story of the tide pools saddens me so much. The situation is disheartening, and I simply hold onto the hope that future generations are learning from our present mistakes.

      • That’s a good point – on the plus side, I can see places improvements are happening, e.g. with gender-based issues, younger generations are much less biased. So maybe environmental issues will improve because the next generation is horrified (unfortunately that’s probably the best word) at what they see has happened, and hopefully they will be determined to get things back in balance.

  4. Very interesting to read about a country having a philosophy such as you describe here in Sweden. Having travelled widely and having returned to some of our favorite destinations at different times over the past twenty years of travel together, we recognize your comments about forecasting impending doom or at least damage to the fragile ecosystem as the traveling hordes expand. You are of course justified in thinking that rising incomes and lower cost of travel means ever larger populations of camera toting and garbage throwing visitors. Alas, I am not sure there is much that can be done about that.

    We have never been to Sweden but your photos of all the natural beauty are very alluring. Perhaps one day we will get there and indulge in free roaming with no footprint left behind.

    Peta & Ben

  5. Enjoyed your roaming in Sweden. I love the forests and lakes in Sweden as well as the outdoor museum with houses from many time periods to roam in and enjoy. Happy travels to you.

      • My pleasure. I tried to enter the deep blue lake people were swimming in only to discover it was quite cold. I dipped my toes in at the shore. Have a great music-filled week full of travel adventures.

    • Thank you. Glad to hear you went running off after yours as well! It doesn’t feel like a big deal, but it’s so encouraging to hear other people taking these mindful actions too.

  6. It sounds like heaven, being able to roam where you will in natural surroundings. Your photos look so inviting. I share your hope that it will never be swamped by limitations to your wanderings.

  7. What a wonderful insight into the Swedes life! I completely agree with your views on the way that something so universal can easily be changed for corporate gain, nice work :))

  8. Sweden sounds like the old fashioned world that was once the birthright of us all… lovey piece…

    Here in NZ – a country the size of England with only 4million people – our amazingly beautiful empty landscape is being trashed by ‘freedom campers’ tourists from Europe mostly, who hire camper vans and use the country-side for their toiletry as well as their dangerous camp fires…
    In a country that relies on tourism, they have become a real problem.. even once pure streams and rivers are now polluted with guardia thanks to thoughtless campers, and it’s no longer safe to drink from them… alas…

    • This is so sad to hear! In the end such behavior hurts all of us. Thank you so much for sharing the situation about NZ. It’s eye-opening to learn how so many places are impacted by tourism and not for the positive, unfortunately.

  9. Oh if we could have a world full of people who think as you do. I had never heard the term ‘allemansrätten,’ but so happy to learn about this tradition. Often I am discouraged when I come across areas of trash in public places but just reading your post, I feel encouraged to keep taking those small steps and doing what I can.

    • I have felt the same way! So often discouraged that my efforts are too little and make no impact, but I’ve been so uplifted to read about how many of us are taking those active “small” steps, how many do so much without fanfare. Thank you for continuing to take mindful action, for all that you do to live sustainably and be a generous steward of our planet.

  10. Sounds like a heavenly way to live and a magical spot for being reminded of how beautiful this world can be. It seems like it would be common sense for people to pick/clean up after themselves, but why more and more people don’t is incomprehensible. It doesn’t really take much effort, and it saddens me that human beings really can be that careless/lazy/spoiled. Don’t people want to live on a beautiful earth? I just don’t get it. Hopefully our own, even small, efforts will be contagious. And in the meantime, thank you for sharing your lovely words, photos and thoughts.

    • Thank you for reading the post and stopping by to chat! A clean planet seems like an unapproachable goal these days, but I’m so heartened by how many of us are doing our little bits. I do hope we inspire more to join our tribe in making mindful decisions while enjoying the great outdoors!

  11. Wow, that is the most amazing fiery bursts of orange along the path of the cascading water…would love to experience some Allemansrätten on that patch of land. You pose some logical ideas to consider…happy traipsing.

    • Isn’t the landscape just so wildly beautiful?! The patterned rocks, the blooms growing among them, the lichen…it was all mesmerizing. I really hope it will stay looking so in the future. Thanks for dropping in on my Swedish adventure.

  12. It’s refreshing to read about someone who uses freedom (Allemansrätten) to become a more mindful, thoughtful person, instead of finding loopholes and exploiting. You’re setting a marvellous example for the rest of us. 🙂

    • Thank you! I hope I am inspiring others to consider that any type of freedom comes with equally weighty responsibility. It’s been so encouraging to discover how many others are working tirelessly in their daily, small acts to protect our marvelous planet.

  13. Such a beautiful and timely post. I often wonder how long will these beautiful places (we see) last on our planet. Exploration is a catch-22 situation — even for the serious traveller. If one sets out to explore a hidden spot, there will be some effect to the environment. And even if we’re careful, when we write about these places, there’s always a possibility of attracting more attention to a hidden (for good reason) gem.

    • “Exploration is a catch-22 situation.” I think about this all the time, and of the ways in which I can mitigate it. I do believe that curiosity about our world, whether it’s far-off places or our own neighborhoods, helps us appreciate its wonder and not take our planet for granted.

  14. Reblogged this on Urban Vyaas and commented:
    There are many fragile ecosystems that are endangered by tourism. Some of them are closed to all but scientific research teams (think of the Galapagos Islands), some islands off the coast of Phuket have temporary closed from May to October during the country’s monsoon season, one of them will not reopen again in the fall: Koh Tachai, an island that is part of Thailand’s Similan National Park. The spot, popular with snorkelers and divers, has perhaps proven too popular—local authorities estimated that a typical beach on Koh Tachai, in the Andaman Sea just north of Phuket, could comfortably accommodate 70 people, but typically sees closer to 1,000 at a time, including food vendors and boat crews.
    I don’t believe that Götaland will ever have this problem because the country’s cost of living makes it unattractive for the mass tourism industry. There is also the factor of social control who cooperates narrowly with the environment law enforcement officers to correct those who would abuse Sweden’s Allemansrätten. Wish you the best while you’re living your own Walden- experience (Thoreau).

  15. This is such a current and important topic. And, your timing is wonderful too. I just went on a yearly walk with a good friend here in Belgium. As often with me, the topic turned to humans and their despicable behavior. My friend mentioned how sad he found it that in Belgium everyone fences their property, and how, in Sweden, the wide open spaces and fence-less properties are a joy to see and walk in. My reaction was much like your post… if a Belgian would not put a fence around his pond, how long would it take before fishermen deplete his lake, garbage is left behind, and dog poop of irresponsible owners piles up?

    It is my negative opinion that there are always people who have to ruin everything, because they’re selfish, ignorant, irresponsible or uncaring. Yet, one might argue that in a unique and pristine environment, people who explore and are nature lovers do their best to maintain the area the way they found it. If I were to walk in a littered city, I would be less inclined to go out of my way to be responsible and not add to the mess. (I actually would not litter, since I’m disgusted by that attitude, but I could see others do this in dirty environments.)

    A country with the freedom to roam sounds just right for me. When my husband and I go for hikes in nature, without thinking about it twice, we always take out what we brought in (including stray napkins), never pick or remove anything, and abide by the rules “Take nothing but picture, leave nothing but footprints.” On the trails, of course. 🙂

    • How eerie that you and your friend were having such a similar discussion! I think you and Mark would love living and exploring in Sweden and would do its tradition of allemansrätten proud. After so many years of being nomads, on sea and land, you two are experts at responsible outdoor subsistence with minimal impact.

  16. Hi Atreyee, A thoughtful post and beautiful concept and your photos are terrific.
    We loved our travels in Scandinavia a couple of years ago and it was so pristine. If each traveler did one kind deed a day, pick up a piece of trash, recycle, follow the rules and model appropriate behaviors for others, it would be a good start. I have witnessed countless thoughtless- and dangerous- acts in my travels, it’s disheartening.

    • Thank you so much Jane. I too have been disheartened in my travels by experiencing so much of what I hold beautiful disintegrating. Often, I fear our love of nature and open landscapes will become a memory and a “virtual reality” in the future.

  17. If nobody chased after their napkins the world would be littered with napkins…. well, unfortunately it is in many places. I often wonder how hard it is to put a candy wrapper in the trash or a can in the recycling bin… it only takes a second. Thanks for your caring nature.

    • “It only takes a second,” and the result is so profound. I remind myself of this every time I am in danger of becoming lazy about how I conduct myself anywhere. Thank you for your kind encouragement!

  18. This sounds utopian and almost too good to be true. It’s wonderful that Sweden has been able to achieve, or at least actively strive for allemansrätten. Your photos work so beautifully with this piece, I particularly like the lily pond and the gorgeous purple flowers against the rocky background.
    We have it pretty good in Canada but I do get frustrated in my little neighbourhood where some residents who have property adjacent to public space or access to beach/parks exhibit a real sense of entitlement and don’t hesitate to show their annoyance when others use these spaces.

    • I fear that Sweden’s ethos is rather utopian and don’t think many places will be able to implement it, especially considering how our population growth is already impeding land and resources. Thank you for mentioning the photos you most enjoyed. I too love those purple flowers and how they spring out from between the rocks so beautifully.

  19. Your final lines about ‘those small decisions’ really ring a bell with me. Though I don’t travel much as a tourist, and indeed haven’t left my home country for over a decade, your conversation in this post still feels very relevant to me. I, too, often wonder whether my own small decisions — not to travel far when there is so much beauty on my own doorstep, not to leave litter on the beach near where I live, not to use plastic bags to carry my things in, not to buy a take-away lunch that comes in packaging but to bring lunch from home, not to wrap that very packed lunch in plastic film but to put it in a reusable container — make any difference. I live in Australia, which like Scandinavia has a low-density population, and yet my country’s environmental track record is, per capita, execrable. I guess I have to believe that each small act of mine adds up … because I have to start somewhere. We all do. I’m so glad to read that there are other people like you thinking and doing the same things … and writing about them :).

    • Hooray for all of our small acts of kindness towards the earth and one another! Thank you so much for sharing your outlook on this. You’ve motivated me to keep on track, to do more “because I have to start somewhere.” Most importantly, thank you for all the care you take in stewardship of your country and neighborhood. I so admire your mindfulness in traveling local and appreciating the wonder of where you live.

  20. You have such a beautiful way of seeing the world and expressing your thoughts so articulately. I’m always enchanted by your writing.

    I think it’s gorgeous you consider such things because sadly, many do not. Many natural spaces have been destroyed in Tasmania (Australia), not because of rubbish or signs, but simply the volume of people visiting and walking on the paths.

    I think the challenge is not just considering where we walk, but to support companies that are mindful of where they source their resources on a larger scale. Keep up the incredible work! ❤️

    • Thank you Kylie, I appreciate that so very much. ❤️ I do agree with you that the sheer volume of people is itself an issue when it comes to places, which makes the question of “freedom for all to roam” such a fraught one. It’s still hard to conceive of our planet as having limited space and resources, but it’s a fact. As our human population grows this will become the biggest challenge. Your reminder about our ability to choose companies wisely is so timely as I educate myself more about the appropriate tourism resources to support.

  21. Many years ago I encountered a sign, “leave only footprints, take only pictures.” I’ve always thought that was a great perspective, and would augment it with “be careful where you leave footprints.”

    Of course, my ancestry is half Swedish, so maybe some of that “Allemansrätten” ethos has trickled down.

    • I love that motto with your thoughtful addendum: “Take only pictures, be careful where you leave your footprints.” It should be taught to everyone, everywhere and kept ever in mind by those of us who travel.

      • It seems like a lot of the popular places are a bit fragile, and even if they’re more robust they can be loved to death. There are other ways to make your mark on the world, if that’s important to you.

  22. Another thought provoking post, Atreyee. Tourism is so double edged. I had an interesting experience in middle Sweden, when hubby and I went on an ‘immersive’ experience with a particular tour company. The holiday model is based on tourists staying with locals, experiencing a ‘sustainable’ lifestyle while being immersed in nature with a promise of observing wild creatures in the locale. The area was also sparsely populated but with transformed landscape. Coming from a background here in South Africa where wild animals and the natural environment are protected by law I was quite taken aback by the lax attitude of the local guides who took us traipsing over precious mossy-floored forest where there were no allocated paths. The paradox for me was the ingrained guilt being overtaken by a headiness exploring a primal forest, the scent to the conifers, the coolness and softness of the moss underfoot that here were moose and deer, wolf and more elusive bear and wolverines. We were encouraged to walk looking for signs -scat / spoor and yes we did find evidence and just for some moments I had a glimpse through a portal beckoning the realm of hunter/ gatherer. At the end of the foray our guide was nonplussed over my concern that too many feet trampling over the fragile forest floor could be damaging and with a group of noisy tourists there’d be a reduced chance of spotting wild animals.
    Whether or not ‘Allemansrätten’ is being exploited unwisely it would be sad if the environment is not protected and is allowed to degrade.

    • Thanks for sharing your intriguing insight into this issue in Sweden, Liz.
      “The paradox for me was the ingrained guilt being overtaken by a headiness exploring a primal forest….” Yes, you describe it so well! That is what I felt too, as if I was somewhere I shouldn’t be and yet able to feel that exhilaration of being the “first” human there.
      Perhaps part of the guide’s surprise came from not being able to imagine the consequence of too many people who don’t have allemansrätten ingrained into their culture. Scandinavia is still one of the sparsest populated areas and tourism there hasn’t yet bombarded their resources. However, things are changing quickly. These concerns will be something their tourism boards and, more likely, the locals will have to cope with in the future. Plenty of places are witnessing the truth that landscapes and wildlife cannot handle millions of us trampling through (and among) them incessantly. Limiting permits and admission has so far been the only solution to materialize. I’ll be paying attention to how Sweden approaches this problem given their deep dislike of restrictive land access.

  23. Such a thoughtful and timely post. Beautifully written and photographed. Such sentiments from yourself and readers … guardians … exactly. take only memories … precisely.
    Such a wonderful spirit the Swedes have … “founded upon trust. Trust that such entitlement will be held responsibly, with tenderness.”
    Yes, responsibility, that is it. We all hold the responsibility of ensuring the world, this precious blue planet, is better for us having passed this way.
    The cost to future generations of having to clean this mess up will be enormous. The seas of plastic, the mountains of rubbish, the clouds of toxic gas.
    And yet we have people who ask why we should bother when others are more to blame … what are they thinking.
    My morning run becomes a walk because of the plastic thrown by the roadside. I cannot carry a bag big enough to collect the cardboard cartons and paper as well.
    The longest journey starts with the first step.
    What can we do?
    Pick up three … pick up four … pick up five … pick up not what we have taken on a hike, on a day at the beach but some of the rubbish others have thrown away.
    Maybe leading by example, maybe their children will embarrass them … maybe, just maybe they will see it for themselves … we are all in this lifeboat sailing through the sea that is the universe

    • “we are all in this lifeboat sailing through the sea that is the universe.” How poetically you put our fate! Thank you for your lovely insight and for all your incredibly unselfish clean-up efforts on your morning runs.

  24. Oh my, I do hope that “Allemansrätten’ is not replaced with ‘Obehöriga äga ej tillträde’. The Captain, who is 12 years older than me recounts stories of traveling through Europe in a campervan and just parking it anywhere, of hitchhiking across the US, of walking long empty (trash free) beaches in Bali and Phuket. Those days are certainly gone. But we still find many pristine places along our way on Amandla. Luckily, we can store a lot of garbage in our anchor locker until we get to a port where it can be properly disposed of. Thank you for taking me along on your gorgeous walkabout. Balm for my soul.

    • Ha, apparently “those were the days” is not just a manner of speech when it comes to trash free wanderings. Whether it’s rural Sweden or coral reefs in the Maldives, it seems our rubbish is overwhelming us now. Thanks for letting me get a peep at sustainability issues while sailing, as it’s something I’ve wondered about.

  25. As a long-time hiker here and abroad, I have been heavily educated in the Leave No Trace responsibilities we all have. Unfortunately, of course, many more travelers have not learned this or simply don’t care. Just as you and I know that running down one little napkin makes a difference, these other heathens argue that the one little napkin isn’t really litter or a major problem.

    The term “allemansrätten” is new to me, but I have been the lucky recipient of this kind of welcome in some parts of the world, and it is such a shockingly wonderful antidote to the philosophy we often see here in the U.S. I remember accidentally straying onto private property in Colorado a few years ago, and within minutes, my group was chased down by an irate man with a gun in a pick-up truck. None of our sincere apologies placated him one iota, and we beat it out of there as fast as we could walk. It is an experience I have not easily forgotten (never mind the gun, a whole other story!), and reading about the opposite mindset with respect to open land restores a little faith in humanity!

    • How terrifying!! I’m incredibly thankful I haven’t had any such experience. Land possession seems to be an intense issue in the U.S. I’ve only hiked in national parks and designated trails in the States, and as these lose their protected status or become overwhelmed by visitors my walkabouts there will probably be limited in the future.

  26. Oh, I love this idea and hope it persists. I live in a beautiful area, but No Trespassing signs are everywhere. Roaming is so limited. But when people don’t respect a place, what are landowners to do? It’s lovely that you took advantage of Allemansrätten while you were there. Beautiful photos, as always.

  27. Allemansrätten: such a great Sweden word… x 💯‼️…
    Excellent photographs over here. Nature and landscapes at their best!.
    Sending love ❤️

  28. Beautiful. ❤ I also run after my napkin if wind takes it. But since I'm in Italy (normally, right now in stormy Slovenia), this action makes me run past heaps of paper, plastic, trash. Who is cynic in Sweden becomes inconsolable in Italy. I wish it lasts at least there.

    • Oh, Manja, that’s so sad to hear, especially as Italy is so filled with historic treasures and gorgeous scenery. Thank you for running after your napkins. Wishing you a sunny rest-of-your-stay in Slovenia. ❤️

  29. Reading this got me thinking of what has been happening in my own backyard. Indonesia is trying really hard to allure as many foreign visitors as possible because some of their smaller neighbors — i.e. Thailand and Malaysia — have been successful in promoting themselves which is reflected in their high numbers of foreign arrivals. However, in doing so, many places across the archipelago often resort to the easiest, but often destructive, way: make everything “Instagrammable”. This means mounting large letters spelling a place’s name out, obstructing the beautiful vista that place has otherwise been known for. Then there’s the trash problem, which is quite serious here.

  30. What a beautifully written piece, Atreyee. I love this concept of “Allemansrätten.” I’ve experienced this freedom to roam only in a few countries, but especially walking through England, where walkers have the right-of-way. In America, everything is “no tresspassing” unless you’re in national parks. I wish everyone would be guardians of our beautiful earth, and treat it with awe and respect.

  31. It is a wonderful, and challenging system of honor. As a child growing up in Sweden, and later on becoming a teacher myself, I would say that a heavy part to make this work has to do with education. Swedes loves the outdoors. Many parents spent most of their free time with their kids in the woods, carefully talking about Allemansrätten. I remember as a little child, how proud my sister and I was to have Allemansrätten, and how eager we were to do our part. In school the subject was often brought up, and field trips in woods, and mountains are common. I to fear that with a bigger ratio people v/s land this might be more challenging to keep up. Spending time on typical tourist resorts, with many people not growing up with this system, it becomes obvious. Unfortunately. I would love to believe that we humans are capable of honoring nature, and do our part. Wether it is in Sweden, or in another part of the world.

  32. Beautiful photos and makes me long for my summer in Sweden! Litter does annoy me and I make sure to always take everything with me – and luckily see most others try as well!

    • Thank you. It has heartened me to see Swedes taking stewardship of their environment so seriously. As for summer in Sweden, I have loved it and really want to experience it again!

  33. I enjoy your thoughtful posts, Bespoke! Your post resonates with me as we continue our “gap” year of travel. It seems to me that tourism itself has become a necessary “industry” for parts of the world, due to downturns in the economy. But these tourist havens suffer as a result with overcrowding, pollution, and desecration by tourists. There is no agreed-upon code among tourists to respect the land, the people, the traditions of the other country. That makes me so sad. When we were in Italy, I was reminded of the fact that this country has endured a number of foreign invasions throughout the centuries and has survived. The invading hordes of tourists are just another incursion they have to endure. 🙂 At the same time, different Italian cities like Venice are enacting laws to protect their cities from tourist overcrowding and damage.

    • Thank you so very much! As you say tourism is the new “golden key” for so many regions who have suffered economic declines in other industries and it’s so easy to sell them that dream. Locals always suffer as a result and visitors become antagonists. Your mention about an agreed-upon code regarding tourism intrigues me. I’d like to find out if any tourism organizations are working on something like this.

  34. I’m glad you went after that napkin. It may seem small, but it’s important I think. I live in England now and am in a walking group that takes full advantage of the rules here that allow you to walk through private land like farmer’s fields, they are required to leave a footpath for you to do so. I love that you can do that in this country. It is important for us to stick to those paths though, it’s the respectful thing to do.

  35. I believe if everyone thought mindfully not only on their travels but in everyday life, what a difference it would make! These small steps only better our future generations. Great pics Atreyee.

  36. What a beautiful concept “allemansrätten” is! I, like you, often ponder about how I travel, to be more mindful and considerate towards the local people, who have to live with what travelers, tourists, and holidaymakers leave behind. I believe that change is created by the accumulation of small acts.

    • I think the concept is made more beautiful because of the heavy responsibility that comes with it. I too, like you, believe that our individual little actions can add up to great changes of significance. Often it doesn’t seem true, but I like to keep faith in this idea.

  37. I believe that if we each model the way and run after our napkins so to speak this can only help. Several of our articles have explored areas of over tourism and the effect on local people. As we share hidden gems I almost feel a sense of guilt that perhaps we will be bringing a wave of destruction. Meanwhile we can also our small bit as we leave no trace.

    • Oh, I too feel this guilt whenever I talk about lesser known places! I wonder if I should name them or post my best photos of them. I’d like to feature very tourist heavy destinations, focusing on ways in which they can mitigate destruction and ways for us all to enjoy them more mindfully.

  38. Like you, I have a tendency to cynicism. I cannot understand how or why anybody thinks it is acceptable to throw out one’s trash and to leave it for someone else to clean up. I don’t know what it takes to create in everybody the awareness of nature’s sanctity, but in the end, it likely will happen one person at a time, provided there is enough time left.

  39. Love this post! Also loved Sweden, an amazingly pristine country. But density is so much less there vs so many other places that struggle with responsibility for eco-minded residents and tourists. And it seems once a single shoe drops there is no longer the same motivation. I too am a conscientious resident and tourist but have seen some very sad results of irresponsibility in my travels. Sigh, we must do our own parts no matter what happens around us. Photos are superb!

    • Thank you very much! The Scandinavian countries are lucky because density is so much less. I worry about what will happen as that changes. I wonder too if there is any responsible way to provide for the “needs” of tourists while maintaining ecology.

  40. I wish more people abided by the Leave no trace credo. I live in the wilderness and I am constantly driven crazy by the stuff weekend visitors feel like they can just leave behind. Beautiful photos.

    • I’m so sorry to hear this about where you live! You know how Swedish locals in rural areas which are becoming popular with weekenders feel. Somehow the enjoyment falls to the tourists and the responsibilities fall upon the residents. I don’t know why this is true.

  41. What a beautiful, thought-provoking post! I had never heard of this concept before. Perhaps it will continue working in Sweden if youngsters are raised to understand that with their right to roam comes the responsibility to be respectful of nature and others’ rights.

    • Thank you so much. I think this concept will only continue to work in Sweden (or anywhere else) if visitors are also taught that sense of responsibility. Otherwise it’s too much pressure on locals to maintain their neighborhoods.

  42. What a lovely notion, Allemansrätten. I suppose it’s because of principles like this one that Sweden is such a beacon for good development, fairness and enlightened government! I suppose it might be endangered, yes, and at times unscrupulous people (or twats; you can’t eradicate twats!) will ruin the very idea of Allemansrätten, but I think that if it’s really deeply rooted into a community, it’ll sort of rub off everyone else. I see it in London, when random acts of kindness are so deeply engendered into everyone’s psyche that even foreigners like myself start behaving, and bring that good behaviour home with them. Yes, tonight I decide to be optimistic for a change!

  43. What to say? It all seems so unequal somehow, doesn’t it? Some of us have the wherewithal to wander the world, careful and conscientious or otherwise. Some of us don’t. I’m tired of seeing litter in our hedgerows and on our beaches and yet I never leave it. Sometimes I pick it up but sometimes it seems an insurmountable task.

  44. I love Sweden myself, a very welcoming country, one of places I want to re-visit as often as I can. Thanks for the stunning photos that tell the beauty of the surroundings!

  45. What an interesting post, and I love learning a new word: Allemansrätten. I would like to believe that those who enjoy nature hold a certain reverence for it. “Leave all gates as you found it” is a common rule in rural areas throughout the world. I learned it as a child when camping, and as I’ve gotten older, environmental issues have only become more entrenched in our existence.

    I live in a big city. The way we dispose of garbage, recycling, using products with less packaging, re-using and conserving, etc. is all part of daily life. It’s a mindset that should not be limited only to public spaces.

    Environmental issues are part of the lexicon today, much more so than when I was growing up. Hopefully, this drives the conversation toward better treatment of the earth over all.


  46. Like you, I chase after errant napkins and stick to the already trodden paths. I’d like to believe that all land should be open access, but there are too many people about who think that being unobserved is a chance to create mischief: such as this last week’s devastating moorland fires in Greater Manchester. A townie, I’m working with the like-minded to eliminate particularly single use plastic where we live, in hopes that the greatest beneficiaries of this will be the waterways and oceans. But all of these are such small steps.

    • Thank you so much for working to eliminate single-use plastic in your region! The little fire of hope continues to burn for me with “such small steps” but gets crushed with each sad news about the overwhelming odds we fight against.

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