July 11, 2012

"When we travel, though, we are asking for hospitality. There’s great vulnerability in this."

"It also requires considerable strength."
To be a good guest — like being a good host — one needs to be secure in one’s own premises: where you stand, who you are... Travel is a search for meaning, not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others. The humility required for genuine travel is exactly what is missing from its opposite extreme, tourism.
Vulnerability? Humility? And — at the same time — it's supposed to be loftier than mere tourism?
The kind of travel to which we aspire should tolerate uncertainty and discomfort. It isn’t about pain or excessive strain — travel doesn’t need to be an extreme sport — but we need to permit ourselves to be clumsy, inexpert and even a bit lonely.
I used to throw myself out of my own country like that. Buy tickets to somewhere and then have to go. I wished I could back out. I was lonely when I was there. I spent a lot of money. I'm actually not a good tourist at all. It was always some kind of spiritual journey for me, a pilgrimage. So I don't identify with the tourism the linked authors sniff at. But I have become very skeptical of the notion that we are supposed to travel for lofty purposes. Is it humble to believe you're above those other tourists and somehow able to commune with foreign locals?

Somebody in the comments at the link quotes Thoreau: "I have travelled a good deal in Concord." That's what crossed my my mind too. Some years ago, I traveled, alone, to Amsterdam, and the book I read there was "Walden." I felt so lonely, and wrote down the quote: "Why should I feel lonely? Is not our planet in the Milky Way?"

I got to that first link via Nina, who has traveled a good deal in Europe. She's comparing showers in France, Spain, and Wisconsin. In Spain and France, the public beach showers are out in the open. At Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin, they are in the bathroom, and when ladies are in them with the curtain closed, they expect you not to peek, even if they are taking too long.
I thought about this for a minute. Privacy. Our big entitlement. Mine, mine, not anyone else’s. It struck me that if someone screamed at me in this way in, say, France, I’d have to think that there’s pent up anger seething there, among the people....

So I wondered if maybe we are a nation of very angry people. As the media broadcasts our general dissatisfaction (with Congress, with each other), as opportunities for expressing anger flourish (blast away at the person you don’t agree with – it’s your right!), maybe we let it all out at the expense of looking for something less... well, loud?
Wisconsinites do have this sense of entitlement, and they shout in your face about it when they feel righteously angry. Remember the Rotunda. And they do mix up the concept of having rights with the problem of deciding when and how to use them. But privacy is a big one. And women can feel quite vulnerable, especially when taken a shower. There's a reason "Psycho" is judged the scariest movie of all time.

And, by the way... that article? The one promoting "vulnerability" in traveling? It was written by men. Of course. You want to stretch yourself beyond the usual realm of everyday life and what you come up with is vulnerability? Chances are you are not a woman.

90 comments:

Palladian said...

Without going through the door, one can know the whole world; without looking out of the window, one can know the Way of heaven. The further one travels, the less one knows.

Daodejing, ch. 47, sentence 1.

Synova said...

Where ever you go, there you are.

Pogo said...

"The humility required for genuine travel is exactly what is missing from its opposite extreme, tourism.

...The kind of travel to which we aspire should tolerate uncertainty and discomfort. I
"
Bullshit.

Vulnerability?
Heroic adventure?
I don't need to travel to find that. Plenty of that already just being a US citizen.

The author may prefer travel that is "redemptive", whatever the hell that means, but I am going for my own reasons, so he can go to hell if he thinks those are the "wrong" reasons.

Goddamn New Yorker lefties; they know what's best for every damned part of your life. Smoking, drink size, apartment size, travel purpose.
Just leave me the fuck alone, willya?

Furthermore,
"travel":"tourism"::films:movies
That is, snobbish, pretentious.

chuck said...

So I wondered if maybe we are a nation of very angry people.

Of course we are. Otherwise we would all vote for Democrats.

Kurt said...

When the question of travel comes up, I usually think of Emerson: "The soul is no traveler. The wise man stays at home."

One of the reasons I live where I do is that I like most of things about life here (from the climate, to the size of the city, to my short commute), and I like what the surrounding area offers in the way of recreational and cultural opportunities.

I traveled a lot when I was much younger, but these days, I don't see the necessity. I have some friends, though, who seem to live just to travel abroad frequently. Although many of these folks like to pride themselves on what they consider their open-mindedness, it seems to me that much of what it boils down to is a need to see and observe other places, cultures, and ways of living, as a rebuke to the way people going about their lives "at home," or as a way of feeling more valuable or worthwhile. Some of their "open-mindedness" is sometimes a prejudice against or a hostility to the familiar, in a word, "oikophobia."

Synova said...

And I'm quite serious about that, too.

I suppose doing things on purpose to feel vulnerable is one way to maintain a perception of the other.

YoungHegelian said...

Holy seekers go looking for oracles, tombs, sites of revelation. Tourists like to visit ruins, empty churches, battlefields, memorials. Tourist kitsch depends on a sterilized version of history and a smug assurance that all of our stories of the past are ultimately redemptive — even if it is only the tourists’ false witness that redeems them.

Oh great googlely-moogely! This is what the NYT publishes in its philosophy blog! Well, so much for trivial shit like free will, the immortality of the soul, how to live a moral life, etc.

How about an article on discourses that re-enforce binary modes of class consciousness, and their role in modern journalism. That would seem to be apposite.

Pogo said...

Idle travel, not spurred by necessity of war, famine, jail, or similar threat, was only for the wealthy and always for fun.

One may have called it some other reason, but if you could go home again and you had the money to do so, it was not a 'real' adventure, or at least it was not a necessary one.

JTwardo said...

It's actually simpler than all that. Those self-absorbed NYT writers would put it this way: "I'm a traveler. You're a tourist."

Synova said...

So I guess I'm pretty much with Kurt.

I don't despise tourists who go see the sights and buy souvenirs. I despise the travelers who deliberately blind themselves to the universality of people.

I can say, I've never met a foreigner.

(Or a Filippino living in a nipa hut that wasn't trying to find a way to live somewhere *else*.)

edutcher said...

The Blonde travels because her father took the family on several vacas a year no matter what the financial situation and she still thinks she should do it that way.

Me, I take a look at the bank statement first.

TosaGuy said...

Short version that most of realized when we became functioning adults: It's not the destination, it's the journey.

Joe said...

Vine Jesu Domini
Bonae est requiem

[thwack]

bwebster said...

Is it too declasse to say, What a load of pretentious crap? ..bruce..

Oso Negro said...

Tourist kitsch depends on a sterilized version of history and a smug assurance that all of our stories of the past are ultimately redemptive — even if it is only the tourists’ false witness that redeems them.

Two weeks ago on a sidetrip from work, I stood at the edge of the Lochnagar Crater at La Boiselle, pondering the first day of the Battle of the Somme. There was nothing ultimately redemptive about it - just the fresh horror of a new look at the Great War.

Econophile said...

I dread hearing of others speak of their travels (or tours), who recount their experiences thinking they have some brilliant cultural insights to share.

Nina exemplifies this in making a great leap from public showers to entitlement and anger. When traveling, we're necessarily only sampling, meaning we're usually taking leaps in the wrong directions, which are often merely determined by our own biases.

lemondog said...

Absolve you to yourself and you shall have the suffrage of the world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

From Self-Reliance

MayBee said...

People should travel or not, as they see fit. Life is not a contest and no onus points as given to those who travel most frequently. If you do travel, you need not seek put uncomfortable situations. Things are easier,
however, if you are willing to embrace and aait your own discomforts. You don't know the language, the customs, the currency, the directions... What have you. Admit that and everything goes smoother.

Titus said...

I enjoy international travel because it interests me in seeing how other people live, what they eat, their modes of transportation, if they are hot, etc.

The more exotic the place the better, but my accomy's have to have air conditioned and be at least 4 star.

I do like staying home a lot too though.

Happiness cums to me many times when someone cancels on me, therefore I don't need to cancel.

tits.

Pogo said...

I travel to look at people, to see new things, to get away for awhile, to read books I have piled up, to find books to add to the pile, to rest, and to hold hands with my wife.

Adventure is the last thing on my mind, but then I am not among the idle rich who must seek it out, having none in their own lives.

Strick said...

Actually, this makes me think of the movie version of "The Accidental Tourist", the one where the travel writer trys to show his readers how to order their travel without ever actually having to change anything you would have done if you had stayed at home.

Perhaps the idea is that to really travel you have to BE in a place; to know what it is like, you have to go beyond your comfort zone and exposure yourself to it and the way people live there in ways that aren't natural to many Americans who expect to find a McDonald's and a Starbuck's as the first signs of civilization.

For many of us that's at least uncomfortable and often painful.

PatCA said...

Sigh...every time I read Romantic twaddle like this, I think...Grizzly Man.

Wise up. Noble Savages, Nature -- they can kill you. And will, if they get a chance.

Paul Zrimsek said...

The day Stavans and Ellison start picking up the tab for my vacations is the day they can start telling me what I'm supposed to be doing on them.

Oso Negro said...

Econophile said:

When traveling, we're necessarily only sampling, meaning we're usually taking leaps in the wrong directions, which are often merely determined by our own biases.

What makes you think you aren't sampling every single day of your life?

Bender said...

Yes YH, a bunch of gobbledy-gook masquerading as something profound. Take something simple and straightforward, layer it in ambiguity and obscurity of language, and then, sniff at how superior you are to the others.

But, if "travel" is better than mere "tourism," is a journey even better? Is the voyager above the traveler? Where does the sojourner fit in this hierarchy of transiting? How about the wayfarer and wanderer? Certainly the vagabond must be near the top of the list?

Michael said...

I travel a good bit to the third world and have certainly learned a lot about how people live and sometimes even thrive in these out of the way spots. I enjoy and dread it. I go alone and i am careful but generally unafraid. A couple of regretable incidents over thirty years.

This writer is full of shit, by the way. Try doing business in some of these places and then tell me how fucking ennobling getting down with the locals is.

Beta Rube said...

I live in the Milwaukee area, and when I go to New York I catch a Broadway show, maybe get a chance to get tickets to the Met, I've visited Ellis Island, the Statue, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and all the rest of it.

Do the authors think that if you go to Rome and visit the Sistine Chapel and The Coliseum you are (oh no!) a Tourist?

I think if you go to Rome and don't have any expectation of getting back there anytime soon, you are a moron for not seeing the great things. Call me a tourist I guess, I love it.

traditionalguy said...

We travel in our minds by reading books or by watching Rick Steves on TV.

But actually walking around in those places is like a lawyer's visiting the scene of an accident/crime. Only being there really makes it all come together for the human mind.

The Roads Scholar trips (f/k/a Elderhostel) offers a choice of organized and reasonably priced trips to a famous areas where locals teach the history and other interesting lore of the area for several days.

A good example of travel being fun is the Carmel/Monterey area. It's got great views, but first reading Steinbecks books make it many times more interesting, as does a study of Saint Junipero Serra's life and his California mission chain established and run from there.

Being ignorant of an areas history makes travel into just a nice view, and we have plenty of those around home.

Greg Hlatky said...

If, as the bien pensants say, global warming is such a crisis, why are these precious aesthetes or the pretentious snobs in the comments going anywhere?

Christy said...

How do Church Missions fit into the tourist - traveler scheme?

From what I understand, traveling is not a part of our DNA. For almost all human time on Planet Earth traveling far from our home of origin was an invitation to starvation or violence.

Aridog said...

Synova said...

Where ever you go, there you are.

Thread winner. And in only the 2nd comment, too.

Funny how I don't think I've ever met a "foreigner" either. Even the ones trying to kill me knew I was the foreigner.

Aridog said...

Michael said:

Try doing business in some of these places and then tell me how fucking ennobling getting down with the locals is.

And that, too. :-)

Rabel said...

"And, by the way... that article? The one promoting "vulnerability" in traveling? It was written by men."

I guess it took two authors to cram that much smug into one short article.

And since they're both Jewish, I suggest they might want to "travel" to Egypt to experience the pyramids while they're still there.

It would be a good test of their humility and vulnerability as well as their strength. I'm sure that a period of restless wandering in search of themselves among the local social beings would satisfy their need for uncertainty and discomfort. Maybe permanently.

Lem said...

"Where ever you go, there you are".

I first heard that line in a movie called The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (1984)

I remember thinking it would have made a better year book tag line.. instead of the lame one I used/borrowed/stole..

traditionalguy said...

Feeling vulnerable must be a talent that I never got. A woman who is smarter than me can plan better to avoid travel dangers, but travel will still require risk taking.

Think of hunting instincts that are still hiding in the man's DNA. So a vulnerable woman needs to take a fearless man along on her trips...like Meade.

Kirk Parker said...

"onus points" -- MayBee wins Typo of the Week!

dbp said...

Jules...I'm just going to walk the Earth.

Vincent: What'cha mean, "walk the earth"?

Jules: You know, like Caine in Kung Fu: walk from place to place, meet people, get into adventures.

Vincent: And how long do you intend to walk the earth?

Jules: Until God puts me where he wants me to be.

Vincent: And what if he don't do that?

Jules: If it takes forever, then I'll walk forever.

Vincent: So you decided to be a bum?
Jules: I'll just be Jules, Vincent; no more, no less.

Vincent: No, Jules. You've decided to be a bum. Just like those pieces of shit out there who beg for change, sleep in garbage bins and eat what I throw away. They got a name for that, Jules: it's called "a bum". And without a job, a residence or legal tender, that's exactly what you're going to be: a fucking bum.

Synova said...

"Perhaps the idea is that to really travel you have to BE in a place; to know what it is like, you have to go beyond your comfort zone and exposure yourself to it and the way people live there in ways that aren't natural to many Americans who expect to find a McDonald's and a Starbuck's as the first signs of civilization."

How, if I'm in another country, is there something wrong with going to McDonald's? It's not there any more for the rude American tourists than yet another Vietnamese noodle bowl restaurant is in Albuquerque because a tourist might show up from Vietnam.

nina said...

Too many writers (in the NYTimes piece and elsewhere) spend too much time critiquing *how* people travel and *what* they see and do when they're away. I do find that to be paternalistic and off-putting.


Quick note on the topic of showers: out in the open showers are, I think, a good solution -- they rinse you off. If you want privacy to change clothing -- and I know some don't think that someone holding a towel (or not) is an optimal solution -- you can use other facilities for that. Or, change quickly so that others aren't eaten alive by some pernicious organism.

And finally, I suppose some things warrant screaming. If my kid was being ripped from my arms, I'd scream. But in most cases, I favor something less... strident.

Paddy O said...

Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.

Abba Moses, A Desert Father

Strick said...

How, if I'm in another country, is there something wrong with going to McDonald's? It's not there any more for the rude American tourists than yet another Vietnamese noodle bowl restaurant is in Albuquerque because a tourist might show up from Vietnam.

Going there because you miss home is different from going there to hide from the very place and people you came to visit.

That's sort of the classic ugly American tourist thing, to go somewhere, complain because it's different and spend your time avoiding the authentic experience.

Which contrasts with something we're familiar with a least in fiction, the exchange student living in a host's home, going to the local school and learning how to blend in. What's the more authentic experience, the greater adventure?

FWIW, I prefer 5 star hotels and dipping my toe into the local cuisine at good restaurants where they speak English, myself. I'm just saying I can see the point.

Patrick said...

"The humility required for genuine travel is exactly what is missing from its opposite extreme, tourism"

This probably is not the most ridiculous thing I've read in a long time, but it is way up there. "Genuine travel?" What the fuck are you talking about? People go places for their own reasons: some want to see some neat stuff that they can't see at home. Some want to meet new people, or experience different toilets. Who the fuck cares why they travel, and who the fuck would ever decide that one is "genuine travel" and another is not.

Pure bullshit.

Henry said...

There are some insights in this essay, but lost in a skunkish miasma of contempt. The authors carefully avoid being contemptuous of actual people. But contempt for categories of behavior is a transparent substitute.

Earlier today I read an essay by the great Joe Posnanski about Kansas City. Posnanski is a bigger-hearted person and a better writer than the two philosophers. What he writes about is the joy of home, the hometown.

Here are messrs Stavans and Ellison, expressing the kind of outsize ego they complain about:

The planet’s size hasn’t changed, of course, but our outsize egos have shrunk it dramatically. We might feel we know our own neighborhood, our own city, our own country, yet we still know so little about other individuals, what distinguishes them from us, how they make their habitat into home.

And here is Posnanski, wise, but not judgmental:

So this is it: Kansas City’s time to be at the heart of the sports world. But what will people really see in just a couple of days? I hope they will enjoy what’s here. I hope they go to the Negro Leagues Museum and appreciate the history of 18th and Vine. I suspect they will try the barbecue and have their own opinions about that. I hope they will drive around a little bit, see some of those boulevards and fountains, shop a bit at the Plaza and all those sorts of things. Baseball stars will be all over the place, and there will be many celebrations, and it will be fun.

"And it will be fun." That beats the search for meaning hollow.

leslyn said...

But I have become very skeptical of the notion that we are supposed to travel for lofty purposes.

OK, then don't go on pilgrimages. They're not supposed to be easy, and they're supposed to be about humility. If you don't like either factor--mot a good idea to go.

Synova said...

"Funny how I don't think I've ever met a "foreigner" either. Even the ones trying to kill me knew I was the foreigner."

Yes.

Travel just means that when you get there the "exotic" you were expecting magically evaporates into the air and sticks on you.

Everyone's life is ordinary while they live it, so what you find is ordinary.

Wherever you go.

Synova said...

"Going there because you miss home is different from going there to hide from the very place and people you came to visit."

My guess is that most American tourists go to McDonald's because it's funny. That's why I'd go.

Either that or for the exact same reason a person in America goes to McDonald's. It's fast and you're in a hurry.

(When you're homesick it's almost worse to try to get something familiar because it's probably not going to be quite right.)

Dividing an experience in a foreign country to categories of "authentic" and "inauthentic" is illogical; unless you stay at a resort and never go into the local economy at all,(and if you do that then you also got what you came for, a very nice stay at a very nice resort.)

But, for example, going to Disney World in Tokyo is what Japanese people do. Ergo, authentic.

Rabel said...

nina,

If you're there, love your writing.

But speaking of uncertain and discomforting travel, here's a guy who fits the bill.

If you want to see some pretty pictures, it opens in Panoramio.

Rene Robert

ken in sc said...

I like Synova. The more I read of her comments, the more I like her. She was not just stationed in the Philippines. She lived in the Philippines. Recto AB.

Chip Ahoy said...

When I look back at all the places we lived and places we traveled, vacations we've had together, people and places we've visited, it occurred to me quite late and then chanced all by myself that I had no idea how to check into a hotel.

I never actually did it before. All that was given to me and I just floated along.

I wasn't entirely useless, I bought tickets, read maps, translated, talked to the driver, handled currency, negotiated things, carried things, but I never checked in or out of anywhere. It was a bit confusing when it came up.

nina said...

Rabel, thank you!

I do find people's comments here on travel significantly more interesting than the article.

Michael said...

Leslyn. It is not too late to read The Cantebuty Tales

Tom said...

"Where ever you go, there you are".

As previously mentioned, this phrase was uttered by BB, who TRAVELLED through the 8th Dimension (along with Lord John Whorfin).

Don't read the 'Times'...write your own history..And enjoy awesome movies from the 80s

traditionalguy said...

Travel has been a Christian imperative since the famous orders to "Go Ye into all the world... etc."

When our education systems were founded in the Colonies they were to teach reading and geography so that missionaries could read the scriptures and than travel to other Nations all over the world preaching the gospel of the kingdom to them.

The National Geographic was mailed out every quarter with detailed Maps for studing the coasts and inland areas of the earth and nearly every one had a Globe.

All of that effort stemmed from Mat 24:14 which was the answer given by a Prophet named Jesus the day before his death to a demand from his followers to tell them the sign of when his kingdom would take over at his return.

He told them many things that would not be the sign, and finally He said the end will come when,"...this gospel of the kingdom has been proclaimed as a testimony in all the Nations."

Stay tuned.

Craig said...

Filipinos in the Philippines go to Jollibee's if they want a burger and fries. It's like McDonalds, but the portions are smaller and it's one-third the price. They go to McDonald's for ice-cream, spaghetti or a scoop of rice with a chicken wing. You can order a Big Mac or a Quarterpounder, but it's a special order. You have to wait seven minutes while they cook it up for you. Only expats ever order them.

Michael K said...

"That's sort of the classic ugly American tourist thing,"

This is pet peeve #401. The Ugly American was the HERO of Burdick's novel. He was the guy who sat down in the street with the locals and didn't have to have a shower in his hotel room.

Oh well.

I like to travel to see new places and sometimes to make new friends from elsewhere. I have usually taken my kids and they are now comfortable traveling all over the world. One daughter has lived in Spain for a year, visited China, worked an archeological dig in Ecuador at 14,000 feet altitude and speaks four languages, including Arabic.

Another is about to graduate with a degree in French and wants to live in France. The others have all traveled and are now pretty tied down by family although my older son took his 18 month old to Spain this spring.

One time, I took six teenagers to England and we spent a week in London. I showed them how to navigate the Underground and set them off. I told the three boys to stay with the three girls but otherwise they were on their own. We then spent a week traveling in an overgrown VW bus and the kids made friends they kept in contact with for years. On the Isle of Wight that summer, they saw the group that later became the WHO. They hung around with Londoners and nobody got into serious trouble.

One problem was that they usually got in about 4 AM and I could never get them up to do tourist sights. Still, they saw stuff they wanted to see. Most of them have been back several times on their own.

samanthasmom said...

I live near Walden Pond, and I, too, have traveled around Concord. Thoreau was a fraud.

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

When you first travel, it's full of wonder. In the space of a few hours, you're in a different climate! Everything is unfamiliar! As the years pass and travel becomes routine, that wonder is lost, but the loss is compensated for by a sense of mastery of one's environment and of the travel experience.

I enjoy the exotic and new, but I also like the familiarity of destinations I've come to know and milieus that I'm comfortable in (e.g., international airports and nice hotels), whether or not visited before. Tourist sites interest me less than soaking up the surroundings. And a little bit of Jakartan slum goes a long way for me, whereas there's scarcely any limit to the time one can spend sitting in a pleasant French cafe.

viator said...

You can't even begin to know the country or "the foreign locals" unless you speak the language. Even then there is a barrier that is sometimes difficult to break.

The Crack Emcee said...

I've been all over the world, spanning the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and there are so many things wrong with this I won't even try to get into them all:

One thing I never do (thinking about the shower situation) is compare any other people on Earth to Americans. Sure, the French have open showers - and little privacy - but they're also pussy socialists who live with a much more inhibited sense of freedom than we do. They'll put up with indignities we would never tolerate, even twisting their minds into pretzels to make them seem sophisticated when, in truth, they're embarrassments.

I'll never forget the day I got sick and tired of the "when in Rome" bullshit and decided our way was better and that's what I was going to do. I became the Ugliest American on the planet and was proud of it. Pissed off everyone around me but that wasn't the point - the point was I finally started enjoying myself. Part of that was deciding I no longer wanted to go to nightclubs but DID want to investigate more castles and ruins. I didn't want to hear anymore bad techno (a lot of which has come here in the ensuing years) but DID want to hear all the gorgeous classical music I'd never heard at home. And it included eating McDonald's and visiting any place that served friend chicken ("American Style") or other cuisine from our shores, albeit with their own twist on it (Hamburgers, with ketchup and cucumbers, in Thailand were great.)

Like Pogo, what I enjoyed most about traveling was holding my wife's hand. His mention of that made me a little sad, recognizing she didn't feel the same way. But she was a foreigner - French to her heart - and always will be:

While I'm an American, and damned proud of it.

Fuck the NYT.

Patrick said...

The upshot of that column: Life is better, travel is cheaper and safer, more people can see more places, and that's a damn shame.

In other words, why must I have to deal with the peasants when I am summering in Europe?

Patrick said...

Next, this clown will tell us that we need to get "off the beaten path." Don't be so touristy.

Well, guess what. The 'path' has been beaten for a reason. There is some cool stuff that tourists like to see. Even if they aren't as humble about it as those peons should be.

Synova said...

I don't know about Buckaroo Bonzai.

My dad used to always say that and then chuckle like he'd been exceptionally clever.

Turns out he was.

He'd chuckle the same way when he'd ask, "What's the difference between a duck?"

At some point in life I expect to suddenly realize the profound nature of a duck. It hasn't happened yet, though.

Bender said...

is there something wrong with going to McDonald's? . . .
That's sort of the classic ugly American tourist thing


It killed me, it just killed me, walking down the narrow street near the Accademia in Firenze to see a bunch of Florentine teenagers sitting on the curb and eating McDonalds cheeseburgers.

EMD said...

I'm an awesome tourist.

I just like walking around in cities I've never been.

A Chinese woman asked me for directions in London. \

I always get asked for directions when I'm in New York City. I have no idea why.

Bender said...

Come on. The Birthplace of the Renaissance. And the natives are eating McDonalds.

Sigh.

Then again, more than once in Italia I ate Cinese, although one time they served it in courses -- the rice first, as a first course, before bringing out the entree later.

EMD said...

Tourists like to visit ruins, empty churches, battlefields, memorials. Tourist kitsch depends on a sterilized version of history and a smug assurance that all of our stories of the past are ultimately redemptive — even if it is only the tourists’ false witness that redeems them.


The New York Times can take a nice tour of hell.

All the condescending bullshit that's fit to print.

EMD said...

unch of Florentine teenagers sitting on the curb and eating McDonalds cheeseburgers.

You should be happy. They're eating foreign food.

Strick said...

"That's sort of the classic ugly American tourist thing,"

This is pet peeve #401. The Ugly American was the HERO of Burdick's novel. He was the guy who sat down in the street with the locals and didn't have to have a shower in his hotel room.


I know. Still appropriate since it's about a man sent to sell milk to lactose intolerant Asians and an ambassador who didn't bother to learn a thing about the place he was sent to.

And, adding "tourist" to the phrase conjures the 60s image of families in Bermuda shorts and socks and dress shoes carrying cameras and talking loudly about how everything's better back home. Tell me that isn't ugly, too.

EMD said...

Also, in Cars 2, the ugly American (Mater) saves the day.

DADvocate said...

They conflate the desire for privacy with selfishness. Stupid.

I travel mostly to see things. I like to see mountains and their streams, mostly. The ocean is ok, but rather monotonous.

I rarely get lonely. I rode a motorcycle from Tennessee to California and back. Spent up to 5 days without seeing a single person I knew. But, I had good conversations with waitresses and gas station attendants. I at pizza in Springerville, AZ and listened to the teenage waitresses exchange their gossip and talk about Johnny's new truck. Pure Americana. It was the best day of the trip.

So many people think it's some kind of higher calling to find fault in everything. Idiocy. Any fool can criticize and most will.

BTW - Synova's first post reminded me of what I told a friend years ago when he decided to move to California to "find himself." I told him he would because that's where he'd be.

EMD said...

Posnanski is a national treasure.

He was born in Cleveland. That helps.

Bender said...

Then again, there is my lefty lib mother, who because she is my mother, I am obligated to love her, and I do, but then again, she is a super lib, the type that is all too happy to complain about the "ugly American" who cannot bother to learn the ways of the places he goes and expects the whole world to cater to him.

So what is she like when I take her to Paris and Rome for her birthday? Could not bother to learn even to say "merci" or "grazie."

Typical lib. But she's my mom, so I can't bust on her too much.

Craig said...

Go to Tahiti. The Polynesians there won't feed you until you address them in French.

Rick Lee said...

Personally, I'm sick of hearing about how "traveling" is different from "tourism". Been reading that for 20 years at least. I'm going to Paris in the fall... I want to see the paintings they have locked up in their museums and eat some food... that's about it. Went to Italy last year... saw the David and a whole bunch of Renaissance paintings and some real old buildings and ate some good food. I was really happy. I slept in a really nice air conditioned room and took a nice hot shower every night.

Michael K said...

"I slept in a really nice air conditioned room and took a nice hot shower every night."

If you go to Venice and the A/C isn't very good DON'T open the hotel room windows. You will be swatting mosquitoes all night.

wildswan said...

When I grew old
And the financial crisis began
I came to live in Wisconsin
By Lake Michigan.
And I keep looking over there
Where color on color rules a line
As if all the lines of print
I ever read
Had been resolved
Into one last meaning -
One final blue horizon line.

Shanna said...

I think if you go to Rome and don't have any expectation of getting back there anytime soon, you are a moron for not seeing the great things.

I agree, but I also think you can't really get a feel for a place until you have already seen the tourist stuff and have time to just wander. My favorite visit to NY was the time my friend and I just wandered around Brooklyn, walking by his old school and going to a local grocery store. But you can't do that until you've gotten the major tourist stuff out of the way.

Dale Light said...

I should point out that when Rick Lee travels he takes really good pictures of the places he has been. I have lived abroad, traveled abroad, and gone on tours. I find that the biggest advantage of living or staying in another country is that you can take a lot more time setting up your pictures.

leslyn said...

Michael said... Leslyn. It is not too late to read The Cantebuty Tales.

Good to know. But do the Canterbury Tales count? ;)
Anyway, that was stories about traveling and pilgrimages, meant to entertain and tweak (which it does wonderfully well.)

Too bad Chaucer lived too early for the Episcopalians to claim him.

Shanna said...

My guess is that most American tourists go to McDonald's because it's funny.

I went to McDonalds when I was in London. I think it was next door to our hotel and it is interesting, because it's the same but different. Also, they had the best Filet O'Fish sandwiches ever. (and after a week in France, London food didn't really tempt)

Lionheart said...

The idea that there is a "proper" way to travel is absurd. Backpack, take a cruise, 5 Star/hostel, bus tour/self directed, sample the food or find McDonalds, watch the people/engage the people. You are doing the right thing if you enjoy the experience and don't bother anyone else's experience.

Craig said...

Hell isn't a place. It's a state of mind that Satan takes with him wherever he goes.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

U recommend living in NYC where the world will come to you, and the toilets are cleaner.

Tibore said...

"Is it humble to believe you're above those other tourists and somehow able to commune with foreign locals?"

Of course not. This is a typical Stuff White People Like article. It's about feeling superior and condescending to those who don't "do it right".

I like the concept of going somewhere else and letting the anchor drift for a while. I also don't mind at all the notion of understanding local norms and not being the loud figure standing out in the crowd. What I don't pretend to think is that getting away from it all is some kind of substitute for spiritual centering. People who play up the "traveller, not tourist" chant tend to be those who are empty inside at home and are trying to find that sense of fulfilment elsewhere for the few weeks they're away. To me, that's superficial: Somehow, a short immersion in something else is worth more experience-wise than all the other days of your life. Well... you must lead an empty life to have to get your spiritual value elsewhere. Like the people who claim to be "spiritual but not religious"... yeah, you want the benefits of religion without the duties of it. Understood.

I went to Mindanao and Cavite in the Philippines to meet family, not to "discover myself". I went to Hong Kong for a variety of reasons that had nothing to do with trying to substitute the inner me with some supposedly expansive "Better Me". And in the North America: I never visited Toronto, Buffalo, Memphis, Knoxville, Daytona, Kansas City, Nashville, St. Cloud, St. Paul, Escondido, San Francisco, etc. for any bull*** spiritual reasons. My process of self discovery didn't end when I get home, and it didn't start when I went away.

If you cannot find value in everyday living, and if you cannot develop that rounded, spiritual sense of yourself where you're at, then you're living life wrong.

Aridog said...

Synova said: Dividing an experience in a foreign country to categories of "authentic" and "inauthentic" is illogical;...

I love it. Outsiders visiting trying to identify the authentic from the inauthentic .... when at that precise time and space, the only "in authentic" things present are themselves.

You be the foreigner, fool, so stop making a pretentious ass of yourself. And to mirror at least a bit of what Crack said, the natives expect an American to act like an American, so quit the pseudo-sophisticated bit ... be your self, presuming a modicum of good manners, and you'll find a whole lot more "acceptance" by the natives ... you are visitor, not them.

Aridog said...

Tibore said: If you cannot find value in everyday living, and if you cannot develop that rounded, spiritual sense of yourself where you're at, then you're living life wrong.

That's it! I have to stop reading this thread. Too many people are making way too much sense.

Tank said...

viator said...
You can't even begin to know the country or "the foreign locals" unless you speak the language. Even then there is a barrier that is sometimes difficult to break


While it's certainly true that you can "know" a country better if you speak the language, I think you underestimate how much you can learn by quietly walking and observing, sitting in a cafe, restaurant or on a public beach and observing, eating in an out of the way restaurant and observing, etc.

I like to travel, and have been lucky to get to many great places in the US and Europe (and others). Almost without exception, people have been friendly to us and helpful, even though we have no language skills other than English and Spanish (my wife and kids, not me).

Our family does have some standard negative commentary about "tourists" (other than us, of course). We call them touristas and, when appropiate, complain that "they're busing them in," even though we've been on a couple of those buses ourselves.

Smith said...

Conservatives say they oppose government-created social engineering and political correctness, and would have you believe those terms and strategies apply only to liberals and their constituencies.

Oh, but conservatives simply have their own set of government-sponsored, socially-engineered, politically-correct plans and goals, and tax breaks for the wealthy are at the top of list (such as the Romneys' 2010, $77,000 federal income deduction for show horse expenses to his list of entitlement perks).

Conservatives attack what they define as special interest arrangements, or entitlements created by government - - it can be Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, food stamps, affirmative action, gender and sexual orientation equity guarantees, public employee health and pension agreements, and the like.

Take a look at hard Congressional Republicans and presidential candidate Mitt Romney are fighting to preserve Bush-era tax cuts for a relatively small number of upper-income earners. Those tax cuts created an entitlement not even contemplated by Ronald Reagan - - a tax privilege that absolutely confers special benefits on politically-influential donors funded by cuts in programs for, or an increased tax burden on others with less power who do not receive the entitlement.