If this post is a little random, my apologies. It is part rant, part commentary and I decided not to overly edit it. So enjoy your ride on the crazy train that is Landlopers.
The travel blogosphere can at times be a pretty incestuous community. We tend to feed off of each other’s travels, stories and even controversies. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad but usually it really doesn’t have any impact on my writing. Recently though a post by Keith at Traveling Savage (yes, he has yet again provoked another post on my site) about tourism and the effect it has on various countries and peoples around the world piqued my interest.
Frankly, I don’t agree that globalization is necessarily a bad thing and that somehow by traveling we are making things worse. The one caveat I would grant is the effect of mass tourism on delicate, natural areas – that I can buy into. But people have been lamenting the gradual change of various regions for decades, probably even longer. I can just imagine some well heeled Roman family lamenting how Gaul had become too modern. Sandals and togas everywhere! It’s always been a travel complaint and probably always will be.
That being said, that’s not what I want to talk about. Keith’s article provoked another thought about a somewhat disturbing trend I have observed in some travel pieces on the interwebs and even more so in comments made: travel snobbery. [Keith is NOT a travel snob, but for some reason his article started the thought process]
Just as the concern for fouling areas of the world has always been around, I would suspect so too has travel snobbery. It’s a classic situation of trying to one-up those dastardly Jones‘. If they went to Paris on vacation, then you must go to Boudreaux and volunteer in the annual crush. Thailand is apparently no longer “other” enough, now you must encamp in the wilds of Vietnam in order to be a cool kid. I have a real problem with this.
Now before everyone gets all uppity with me, I didn’t say EVERYONE feels like this, but I have seen it enough to really irritate me. And if you’ve ever read anything of mine before, you know it’s really not that hard to make me cranky.
I have said on many occasions that I am not a travel professional. I am a suburban, white male, button down in a dull office kind of professional. I get two weeks or so of time off a year, which I guard as jealously as Charlie did his Golden Ticket. I am not a traveler, vagabond, wanderluster or any other clever synonym – I am a tourist.
Being a tourist is awesome. We get to visit an area, soak in its brilliant otherness, taste some scrumptious delicacies (and yes, a Nutella crepe is a delicacy) and then return home to our quotidian lives with the kids and the dogs and the Target stores. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and it is in fact how most people live. That being said, even within this community of professional tourists, there is a competition war and the result is a mashup of confusing and downright odd travel messaging.
There is a reason why Disney World, Paris and the Caribbean are popular – people really like going there. It seems like a simple concept, doesn’t it? Joe and Jane visit Paris, love it, return home and inspire their friends Sam and Larry to go, and so on. It’s a chain reaction of travel yumminess.
Rather than scoff at people who may love an all-inclusive vacation, or seek a certain level of comfort in a cruise, they should be embraced. Because, while it may seem like they are yet another sheep going with the heard, they absolutely are not.
Like any two snowflakes, no two travel experiences can be the same by definition. Even though we may both go to Paris, it is our individual experiences, the people we meet and the emotions that it provokes that make our trips as different as if I had gone to Bhutan instead. These experiences define our own special travel snowflake and make these “common” trips decidedly unique and uncommon.
Along with this, I have also been annoyed recently by people who want to “escape” the crowds and find some forgotten or never discovered nook of a city or country. That’s all well and good, but that doesn’t make it a more authentic experience and frankly, there’s probably a reason why no one goes there. I can think of a no more classic French experience than observing Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower followed by a great meal and glass of wine at a Marais bistro. Yes, it is the classic movie image of Paris, sans the berets and stripped shirts, but it defines the city. There is a reason why stereotypes exist and there’s nothing wrong with that!
There is no truly right and wrong way to travel. If you want to head down to Daytona and plop your rear in a beach chair for a week, more power to you! If you want to ride around on a camel in the Himalayas, go for it! (are there camels in the Himalayas?) The more expensive, harder to produce trip does NOT make it a better or more real experience.
In a previous post, I talked about why I travel. For me, travel is completely about the experiences, about seeing as much of this huge world as I can and learn from as many people along the way. For others, travel may mean an escape from the norm and an opportunity to relax and decompress. Both are completely valid reasons to travel.
And so, as I sit here thumbing through pictures of my partner and I in front of Big Ben, the Parthenon and many other touristy places, I am thrilled and honored to say that I am a diehard tourist.