A Worn Road Map

September 24, 2012

A Worn Road MapStan McGahey’s passport reflects thousands and thousands of miles of travel, and he has the stories to prove it: stories about places that even other well-seasoned travelers may not have encountered.

The associate professor and director of the International Tourism program at Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, FL, has made it a point to visit many of the World Heritage sites compiled by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  In fact, McGahey has traveled to roughly 125 of the 962 cultural and natural sites designated by UNESCO.   

“I came back from a trip to Eastern and Northern Europe from June 2 to June 30 and we visited eight sites on that trip.  It’s not that we (he and his spouse) build our itinerary around UNESCO World Heritage sites, but wherever we go we do look to see if some are convenient and if they are we do usually go because they are really interesting places.”

By publishing this list of World Heritage sites, UNESCO seeks to “encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity,” according to the UNESCO website. The organization meets each summer in St. Petersburg, Russia, to review recent nominations for the list.    

“This list came about because we had such a tremendous loss of natural and cultural heritage back in the 1970s that there was a need to stop and look at things and save those things that were of interest to all mankind.”   

There are two basic UNESCO World Heritage sites: natural and cultural.  Sites can also be both.  Sites must meet six different criteria to become a cultural site and natural sites must meet four different criteria.

McGahey says that this list does do a lot of good by identifying cultural and natural resources for the public.  If we were to lose this list, McGahey says it would be catastrophic.   

“This is heritage that has universal value to all of us and we must protect it.  I think this sets standards, creates publicity and gets countries and communities thinking that our heritage is worth preserving on an international basis.  

McGahey says that he plans to visit some of the “Stans” countries in Central Asia or going down to Peru or the Equator.  There are UNESCO sites in those locations.