December 27, 2015

What if Americans stopped believing the travel propaganda?

You'd get articles in The Daily Beast with titles like "American Tourists Quit Trying to Understand the World/The United States initiated a new golden age of travel. Now terrorism and fear-mongering by demagogues is grounding the project."

"Fear-mongering by demagogues" is propaganda, but so is taunting people about not engaging in tourism — saying they've caved to fear-mongering demagogues — and portraying tourists as engaged in a lofty pursuit of "understanding the world."

There are pro and con arguments for traveling and for not traveling, and people weigh the pros and cons for themselves. I don't see the rationality of declaring that those who decide not to travel are irrational. You could be rational or irrational either way.

The writer of this Daily Beast piece, Clive Irving, is a senior consulting editor at Condé Nast Traveler, so he's interested in promoting travel and boosting the mood of the people who choose to spend the money, make the effort, and take the risks of traveling and looking down on those of us who lean toward thrift, comfort, and safety. The prime argument is that the travelers are genuinely interested in learning about the people of the world and that those who stay at home are not. Here's Irving:
Mass tourism swamped iconic destinations like Venice and the French Riviera. But the real travelers—as opposed to the tourists—were no longer blinkered by a Eurocentric idea of what constituted a civilized culture. To these people the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia became as important to see as the cathedral at Chartres, or Kyoto, the old imperial capital of Japan, as spellbinding as the ruins of ancient Rome.
Notice what's not there: the people who actually live in these foreign lands. These are lovely old sites. I went to Rome. Upon arrival, I was robbed, but later I saw the ruins of ancient Rome. I can honestly say I was not "spellbound." Yes, this is the place that I've long known about, these stones are the stones... but the value lies in what I know because I've read about ancient Rome, and it is more reading that has a shot at spellbinding me. Do the people who travel have a more wide-ranging mind than the people who read and think about the world? Anyway, as Irving observes, places like the ancient ruins of Rome have tourists walking all over the place. And I'm sure Angkor Wat has tourists walking into your camera shots trying to get you out of their camera shots, even though these shots are unlikely to be as good as a hundred photographs you could see right now by Googling for images of Angkor Wat (or watching the last season of "Survivor").

More from Irving:
By traveling, Americans had found out for themselves that abroad was, in reality, a complex and volatile place where people did not immediately accept American exceptionalism, had a pride in their own differences and values—and were prepared to debate them with open minds.
Who travels to a foreign country and engages the locals in debates about American exceptionalism? Or does Irving really mean that by traveling, an American can absorb some snubs and sneers from people who don't like Americans for reasons that will not be explained on the scene but could be grasped through reading and thinking.

There is a lot of detail in Irving's article about "the indignities and frustrations" of airports and airplanes and quite an effort to tie these problems to what he sees as an overreaction to terrorism. He says that after terrorist attacks Americans are "less resilient" than Europeans:
The San Bernardino slaughter.... produced a completely disproportionate change of mood, turned uglier after being fueled by politicians, building on foundations laid by imbecilic xenophobes like Ann Coulter.
And:
Nothing reinforces ignorance more than isolationism. Fear of “the other” intensifies as people retreat behind barricades in their minds, while the actual physical barricades fail to produce enduring security. Reinforced borders and walls promote friction and conflict, not contact. Personal contact—the kind of contact that breaks barriers of attitude, language, religion, and ideology—comes only through experiencing the change of landscapes, senses, and feel of places that is the essence of travel.
I question this belief in the kind of "personal contact" you can get from foreign travel. You can trek all over the place and still be quite ignorant, and I suspect the locals mostly look at the tourists as ignoramuses. Why wouldn't they? And as for the "retreat[ing] behind barricades in their minds," we're all in our own mind. There's no way out. You have never traveled beyond your own skull and you never will. The promotion of travel — an expensive, time-consuming, arduous activity — as the only way to understand the world is propaganda. There are other ways to develop your mind, notably the thing you are doing right now.

ADDED: I wonder if these people who believe they're understanding the people of the world through travel ever consider spending more time in the poorer neighborhoods of their own city and getting to know the immigrants who live in their town? Why not contribute the money you would have spent on travel to a charity that serves this population and then volunteer for some activities that might involve you in real relationships with some of these immigrants? If that doesn't seem like a viable alternative to you, then why take pride in the imagined superiority of yourself as a traveler?

AND: I would love to see Skara Brae, but I'm seeing other people standing around even in the pictures on the Internet:

70 comments:

rhhardin said...

My curiosity about the world fell quickly after too many trips across the Pacific in a DC6.

And motels are the same everywhere.

William said...

Balderdash! Complete and utter balderdash!

Irving fails to even consider that the average person in the United States could NEVER afford a trip to Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu. Traveling to exotic destinations—and yes, to many folks even Venice is exotic—is far beyond the means of probably 80% of the people in our country.

Irving is out of touch with reality. There are no doubt tens of thousands of curious and enlightened want-to-be travelers in the United States who simply can’t afford to travel to faraway places. He has SJW disease; he assumes that his own value system and economic circumstances apply to everyone else in the country. Pathetic.

It brings to mind—and I’ll admit that this may be a stretch—all of the resistance to drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). "We must preserve this pristine wilderness for future generations," they say. But wait—only the wealthy can afford to travel to the Arctic to experience this pristine wilderness. Joe the Plumber—who will never, ever see this pristine wilderness—is stuck with higher energy prices so that the elite can “protect” an area that only they have the wherewithal to experience.

And the hits just keep on coming.

virgil xenophon said...

You don't have to fly to the surface of the sun to know it's hot..

chuckR said...

(Clive Irving) 'says that after terrorist attacks Americans are "less resilient" than Europeans' .
I think this represents the Eloi viewpoint. The danger is over until the next time the Morlocks get rambunctious.

Doug said...

I have traveled all over the world (visited 85 countries so far), and I have also lived abroad (one year in the Netherlands, three years in the Czech Republic). I have to say that travelers never get to see the real foreign country or get to know its real citizens. Living there is such a different experience -- there is no comparison.

Doug

epador said...

Having traveled the world on Uncle Sam's behest, I am quite happy not to be a traveller at this time. Your analysis of the corrupt perception of traveling is on target.

Fernandinande said...

CNT's Angkor Wat page: "9 of the Most Luxurious Airbnb Cabins Around the World"

CNT is about luxury and avoiding the locals.

Why You Should Go to Tasmania Now"
So you can stay in an up-scale beach house!

mccullough said...

I have enjoyed seeing the sites of famous places as a more palpable version of the excitement of seeing them in the James Bond movies when I was younger. But tourism is mostly an acceptable form of colonialism. And many of the people I've known who are travel snobs know much less about the places where they live than accepted.

Reminds me of Milton's line that "wherever I go is hell, myself am hell"

T said...

Another aspect of travel, hinted at in this essay, is as an elitist status marker. Some thirty years ago Robert Hughes (in his book/video series "The Shock of the New") pointed out that "It's become more important to have seen Michangelo's David than to see it."

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

Whenever you talk about travel, I'm always glad I did mine back in the 70's when I was a bit more resilient and there were fewer travelers once off the beaten path. Was in the Orkneys in '76 and it really is a magical place. Besides Skara Brae (with its curves it seems simply part of the landscape - and at one with it) and some standing stone circles, always remember the landlady of the B&B talking to her friend in Gaelic, with words made on the indrawn breaths as well as the regular way.

Really appreciate the blog - thanks for keeping it up.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful new year.

buwaya puti said...

Elitist status marker is part of it.
Some travel for the sake of status, certainly. It is conspicuous consumption after all.
To a degree, for the right personality travel is an adventure, and for some an addiction. I was raised in an expat environment and I can say there really is the phenomenon of wanderlust entirely independent of social status. I have known those who've "'eard the East a-callin'".
If you want a taste of the feeling in back of this, Kipling's bittersweet "Mandalay" is a fine start. Kipling had the addiction himself.

traditionalguy said...

The Elder Hostel, now Roads Scholar programs are usually worth the time and the money. They have a group program using local teachers and field trips around in a well known place. Usually it includes 5 day stays in an affordable Hotel/ Camps/ Centers for a fair price.

robinintn said...

In addition to his knee-jerk anti-Americanism, he's also quite the nasty snob.

southcentralpa said...

Terrorism may be part of it, but movies like Hostel, Taken, and the whole genre effect young people more.

traditionalguy said...

The Skara Brae photos are a good lesson to show our legal concept that owning the Real Estate also means owning the houses on the land without any mention that they are included at no extra cost. That is a counter-intuitive concept to many.

Those Scottish Islands were long governed by Clan Donald, famous as Lords of the Isles, or Lairds of the Isles. So you already have your daily post on The Donald

Darrell said...

It would be a shame if he is eaten the next time he travels. A real shame.

Achilles said...

I traveled ... With the army. I learned about the world. I know vastly more about the world than this jackals.

Sammy Finkelman said...

All they someone can see merely by traveling is the architecture - provided it is not a Potemkin village.

And you can see if the windows are broken or not.

I suppose someone may discover different sorts of places. In the United States some places have payday loans and some places have never heard of them. Some places have walmarts and some places have never experienced a Walmart. Some place have state run liquir stores and other places have private liquor stores. In some places guns and ammunition are readily for sale and in other places they are not. some places have mass transit and in some places it is impossible to get anywhere that way.

Fernandinande said...

I would love to see Skara Brae, but I'm seeing other people standing around even in the pictures on the Internet:

Crowds and "stay on the walkways" stuff bother me enough that I rather see something less spectacular with nobody else around.

Hint for photos: camera on tripod, take a few shots as the people move around, then photoshop/gimp to combine the person-free portions into one image.

Michael said...

Travel writers, like sports writers, love to venture into lefty political thinking on the premise that doing so will make them more like real writers. It doesn't, as we see from this article.

robother said...

When I moved to NYC in the 70s, the cliche was New York's a great place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. I found it to be the opposite: to really enjoy the art music and culture YOU like, you need to live there; even the big tourist destinations in the City were best enjoyed out of season or when no big exhibit was drawing the hordes.

This guy, like his employer Conde Nast, is pushing the "traveler" vs "tourist" distinction, but my experience of being the former is that within a couple years, most every destination that attracts the traveler becomes a target for the mass tourism industry.

Roughcoat said...

Well, I like traveling to foreign countries. I like getting out of my shell. I like the differences. I like the interactions. I like the history and the architecture and all that. I like to see new things. It's usually fun and sometimes exciting. I DO get spellbound by many historical sites. I've traveled off the beaten path and on it, and I like both, each for different reasons. I've had adventures in some places and I've taken the best naps of my life in others. What's wrong with that?

Roughcoat said...

Also, I don't mind categorizing myself as a tourist. I'm a tourist, so what? Nothing wrong with that either.

jaydub said...

CNT is the most pretentious, least valuable travel rag ever published. It doesn't even recognize any travel that occurs outside the confines of deluxe spas, 5 star resorts and Michelin-starred eateries. If I thought the world exists as presented in CNT, I wouldn't want to travel either, but having been to 42 countries and never knowingly followed a single piece of travel advice offered by CNT, I am qualified to say Irving's opinions are at least as irrelevant as Irving, himself. BTW, if anyone is looking for a decent magazine to get some travel ideas, my personal favorite is "Budget Travel."

TWW said...

I've been to Skara Brae. Incredible site. I was one of those people standing around.
What's your point?

Fen said...

Excellent fisking Althouse, and of a topic who's relevance would ignore. This is why I read your blog, for these kinds of gems. Great analysis that has me thinking in ways I didn't before.


Clive Irving: "The San Bernardino slaughter.... produced a completely disproportionate change of mood"

Clive, its because your precious Europeans are the ones with the abnormal disproportionate attitude towards terrorist attacks. For Europe, random senseless death by terrorism has been the new normal for at least a decade now. Its the cost of living in Paris or Milan. Its factored in.

Along with the European "courage" that dismisses terrorism by playing the odds it will happen to someone else's loved ones.

America hasn't over-reacted to terrorism. Europe has shoved its head in the sand. Why would I want to visit these people? A last glimpse before they all submit and don burkas?

David said...

"I would love to see Skara Brae, but I'm seeing other people standing around even in the pictures on the Internet:"

See it in winter.

orthodoc said...

High end "luxury travel," as opposed to going somewhere for work or (perish the thought) as a tourist, is mostly a way to show your superiority to the great unwashed.

The US has something like 60 national parks, and 14 World Heritage sites. They run from the Everglades to the Brooks Range in Alaska. Dollars to donuts this clown hasn't been to more than 5.

Quaestor said...

One can learn more about Skara Brae by studying the works of qualified scholars on the subject of prehistoric Britain than one can ever learn by tourism. However touring Skara Brae can be very valuable, particularly if you visit the site any time except high summer, because it will put global warming hysteria into its true perspective.

Sebastian said...

"I wonder if these people who believe they understanding the people of the world through travel ever consider spending more time in the poorer neighborhoods of their own city and getting to know the immigrants who live in their town? Why not contribute the money. . ." You wonder, do you? Appreciate the fisking and all, but you keep assuming that Progs argue in good faith, mean what they say, would follow the logical implications of their arguments once those are pointed out to them, and view words as more than tools for power grabs and posturing. Time to stop "wondering."

Fen said...

I had a Facebook friend block me over a travel advert she was sharing. She was asking her girlfriends to consider taking a trip to Sweden with her.

Now, Sweden is notorious for baking their crime stats to make the country look safer. And there had been a very sharp rise in the number of gang-rapes by muslim immigrants. The newspapers had embargoed any stories about it. They didn't want to lend any credibility to xenophobia, and they knew all the money from the tourist industry would dry up if they reported "Muslim gangs targeting white women for rape".

So, I though I was pass this info on to my FB friend, maybe get her to think about travelling to a less dangerous country.

She censored me for "being a bigot" and blocked me. LOL. Yes, that was me, one of the "fear-mongering by demagogues grounding the project" that Clive complains about. Because I told a group of travellers to avoid Sweden right now because muslim gangs are targeting white women and the government and media are ignoring it.

Hey Clive, that volcano? Its active. Don't jump in. Maybe try a different one?

The FB friend was more of an associate than a friend, so no true friendship was actually lost, and she's decided against Sweden. I think that was a good trade. The gang-rapes over there are very brutal. And she is a very sweet lady and she won't miss me.

Oh, tldr - avoid Sweden, the women are all getting gangraped by muslim immigrants right now. The muslim youths are calling it "wait your turn". Its kinda of fad with them right now and the swedish government has its head in the sand. So until all this settles, I would travel somewhere else.

Quaestor said...

traditionally wrote: Those Scottish Islands were long governed by Clan Donald, famous as Lords of the Isles, or Lairds of the Isles. So you already have your daily post on The Donald

Not those islands. The MacDonalds ruled parts of Outer Hebrides archipelago, but that "Lord of the Isles" pretense was largely bluff. The MacLeods and the MacNeills didn't buy that Clan Donald guff. Skara Brae, however, is in Orkney, where MacDonalds are just newcomers. Genetic tests of living Orkneymen prove that they are more closely related to Norwegian people than to any other Britons. The culture in the Orkneys is more Norse than Gaelic.

The Orkneys are very different geologically from the Hebrides, which are mountainous and rocky. The Orkneys are flat and sandy, and only the sparsely inhabited Isle of Hoy has appreciable high ground.

Big Mike said...

He's right, but he's wrong. I'd like to see the pyramids, but right now I don't think Egypt is a particularly safe place for an American to visit. Neither is Paris, evidently. However there are many places here in the United States that are worthy of a visit, and the wife and I haven't been to more than a fraction of them. What Irving doesn't understand is that the problem with travel isn't an issue of fear of terrorism, that's only a small component of the problem. The real problem is stagnant wages and a seven-year "L-shaped recovery" (meaning no recovery at all). Travel costs money, and people don't have it.

Quaestor said...

You don't know what cold is until you stand on the bluffs of Skara Brae when a northwesterly wind is blowing, even in July!

The middens of Skara Brae show that it inhabitants lived there year round, which only confirms the fact that during the Neolithic Age the average global climate was considerably warmer than now. There are remains in the Skara Brae middens of fish species that are no longer to be found at that latitude, so the sea was warmer as well.

RichardJohnson said...

William
Irving fails to even consider that the average person in the United States could NEVER afford a trip to Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu. Traveling to exotic destinations...is far beyond the means of probably 80% of the people in our country.

Nonsense. The issue is not money but outlook. I paid for a post-baccalaureate trip to Latin America by working three months as an aide in an institution for the mentally retarded. However, my backpacker's budget paid for cheap hotels, not the four-star variety that many affluent people patronize. Transportation in-country was not by plane or taxi, but by foot, trains, or the proverbial bus loaded with live chickens. Such a trip, traveling like a local, would have been problematic for someone who didn't speak Spanish.

My brother's in-laws made numerous trips abroad in their later years, including Cambodia and Angkor Wat. They earned their livelihoods as an upholsterer in a furniture factory and as a school librarian. Hardly upper crust at all.

Your point about the ANWR is well-taken.

Doug
I have to say that travelers never get to see the real foreign country or get to know its real citizens. Living there is such a different experience -- there is no comparison.

If a traveler speaks the language of a foreign country, he gets to know the country a lot better than someone who is dependent on English speakers. I feel sorry for someone who goes to a foreign country without knowing the country's language[s].

You are correct that living in a foreign country is a much different experience from a week or two visit as a tourist. One reason why is that in the process of living in a foreign country one is much more likely to develop proficiency in the local language[s] than will a transitory tourist.

After my time working in Latin America, my subsequent visits were oriented to visiting old friends, not to seeing places tourists are supposed to visit. Yes, there were trips to some places tourists are supposed to visit, but they were trips taken with local friends.

Friends of mine in Central America had family members who were living in the States, and in the process acquired Gringo in-laws. One Gringa in-law, while visiting her husband's family, suffered from perpetual stomach upset/ turista. Yet when I had the same food- black beans, tortillas and coffee from the family land- I never got sick. For that matter, none of the family got sick, either. Some are adaptable, and some are not. I suspect there was some permanent change in my intestinal flora as a result of my trips down South.

Regarding the comparative ability of Americans to be open to new experiences, I am reminded of a French tourist in Colombia I palled around with for nearly a month. One time she told me that some of her French paisans had, while visiting the US, done some hitchiking. Some of the Americans who picked up her hitching fellow French had invited the French to spend the night in their homes. This was also my experience in hitching around the US in the '70s. My French friend informed me that there was something sick about Americans, that they would invite near-strangers into their homes.

Such distancing towards strangers is not uniquely French. I worked in South America with ethnic Europeans who had been born and raised in Peru. One was the son of Italian immigrants. The other was a German national, the offspring of a German expat couple who had moved to Peru for work. Both later spent some time in Germany. The immigrants' son worked as an engineer w Volkswagen. The German national went to Germany for university. Both considered Germany as a cold place for those who hadn't been born and raised in Germany and who could trace German roots back 500 years.

As far as Americans who want to stay in expensive hotels while abroad, I see that as their choice. Not mine, though.

D. B. Light said...

I, too, have "traveled" and "toured" extensively and seen much of the world. Traveling in luxury is nice, when it can be arranged, but I also enjoy living for weeks or months [or in one case, years] in foreign climes. I have friends and family living all around the world and have benefited greatly from their insights. As an academic historian I have also spent a lot of time reading, researching, and thinking about other times and places and cultures. Travel [even tourism], personal contacts, and formal study can be mutually reinforcing and have made my life far richer than if I had done none of them. If anything my experience has reinforced a sense of American exceptionalism. There has never been a better time or place for ordinary people to live than in the here and now.

Char Char Binks said...

Travel is such a travail.

Sam L. said...

Since he's writing for The Daily Beast, I'm sure he'll go to Casablanca for the waters.

LYNNDH said...

I almost, but not quite, hit someone that put a "selfie" stick up that blocked a picture I was about to take in the Vatican. I say "selfie sticks" are an abomination, more a danger to the world, world peace and "climate change" than the burning of coal. They should banned. Rise up and rid the world of these loathsome things.

sydney said...

I wonder if these people who believe they understanding the people of the world through travel ever consider spending more time in the poorer neighborhoods of their own city and getting to know the immigrants who live in their town? Why not contribute the money you would have spent on travel to a charity that serves this population and then volunteer for some activities that might involve you in real relationships with some of these immigrants? If that doesn't seem like a viable alternative to you, then why take pride in the imagined superiority of yourself as a traveler?

Because they're poseurs?

elkh1 said...

Nobody cares about the global warming exhaust from jet planes, and cars ferrying tourists around any more?

Bill Peschel said...

Absolutely spot on, Ann.

I'm not much of a traveler, but I love reading about foreign places. I subscribed to European Travel and Life in the '90s, which was a very cheeky publication. They published Peter Mayle's Provence articles before he became a best-selling author, and they did a pictorial on Finnish saunas featuring two gorgeous naked Finns.

Conde Nast took over the magazine, killed it, and moved its subscribers over to CNT. As a drone at one of their newspapers, I was able to subscribe for half-price, so I continued, even though the articles were as you described: lots of status markers, lots of 5-star destinations (their annual Best of was a complete waste of an issue), and threads of leftist whinging.

The most amazing story I read was the one on Mexico City a few years back, in which the writer actually complained the city was more authentic and fun back in the 1970s, when gangs ruled the streets, crime was epidemic, and the smog could damage your health. ("Why are you surprised?" I hear you say. Because even though I had heard of boomers nostalgic for, say, CBGBs in the '70s, this is the first time I spotted such an all-encompassing, you-shouldnt-go-full-retard statement like this in the wild, and about anyplace apart from Manhattan in the '70s. I really should have cut it out and saved it.)

As for my personal experiences, I visited Britain, France, Germany in the '70s, and there were some stunning, sobering moments: Visiting the underground chapel where Charlemange worshipped, seeing a show at the Crazy Horse, walking through Auschwitz, drinking wine and smoking hash with Algerian students along the Seine. I love history, particularly English, so London was awesome and I'd like to go back.

But then, I'm attuned to travel. Now that I'm older, I realize that people are attuned to different vibrations. Some people like music; some, like Captain Hornblower, can't stand it. Art delights the eye, except to those who see a blob of paint.

Same with travel. I love Doug's idea (near the top of the comments) about doing "thumbprint travel," in which you stay in a city for a week or two, giving you the chance to meet the locals and experience a little life. But I wouldn't mind going around the world on the Queen Mary (I've visited Cunard's site several times). Spend four months going around the world? I'd totally go for it, knowing that I'd be just as much a "tourist" as Chevy Chase in Nat Lamp's Vacation.

D. B. Light said...

Sydney, how do you know that they don't spend time in "poorer neighborhoods" or participate in and give to charity? And how do you know that they feel a sense of "superiority"? You are making some unwarranted assumptions and they do not reflect well on you.

Bill said...

Who travels to a foreign country and engages the locals in debates about American exceptionalism?

Does traveling to Starbucks and engaging the locals in debates about American racism count?

Moneyrunner said...

Doug is absolutely right. “I have to say that travelers never get to see the real foreign country or get to know its real citizens. Living there is such a different experience -- there is no comparison.”

This year I spent two weeks on a European river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. They are all the rage these days. Because I can afford it and it’s something I thought would be less arduous than driving with all the packing and unpacking. It was fun, we had a great time, the tours were outstanding, allowing us to visit palaces and enjoy entertainment we would not have experienced on our own. We made some good friends on the boat. But in the end it’s a guided tour where every day is a different city and cathedral. They have a tendency to blend into each other unless you keep a diary. And you really get no idea of what the country and the people are like and how they live.

The previous year I spent two weeks in a small Dutch coastal town where I was born. I brought two sisters who were also born there. We rented a flat, cooked our own meals, shopped for food, experienced the difficulties in parking (it’s impossible and fines for parking in the wrong place at the wrong time are astronomical) and the hazards of tangling with streetcars. We walked the beach, saw the small local monuments and walked the parks and neighborhoods that were part of our parents’ and grandparents past.

There are a few things that I would like to do, like take that cruise to Alaska that everyone always talks about. But the discomfort of long distance travel, even if it’s done in luxury, gets more and more uncomfortable as we get older because no matter how well you’re fed and wined being cooped up for 6-8 hours to get to Europe, and longer if you want to go Asia, is daunting.

That said, in my opinion, the best way to travel is not to tour but to find a destination and stay there for at least few weeks. That way you get a chance to actually get a flavor for being there. It's nice to be able to speak the language, but in my experience a large proportion of Europeans and Japanese speak English. I recall that I once entered a hotel to ask for directions and asked in Dutch. The clerk answered me in perfect English.

ken in tx said...

"My curiosity about the world fell quickly after too many trips across the Pacific in a DC6."

A DC-6 was the presidential aircraft of the Republic of Vietnam. After the fall of Saigon, it ended up on Clark AB in the Philippines. It was parked in a remote area and not guarded and had been thoroughly looted by the time I saw it in the late 70s. Before my tour was up there, it caught fire and burned.

BTW, I have been inside the Great Pyramid. I was surprised at how hot it was inside all that stone, and also surprised at how many fat German tourists could squeeze into those narrow tunnels going up to the sarcophagus.

What travel is good for is bragging rights, like I just demonstrated.

sydney said...

D.B. Light,
You don't have very good reading comprehension skills.
1) The quote was from Althouse.
2) The last statement of that quote says "If that doesn't seem like a viable alternative..." selecting out those who DON'T do those things.

Malesch Morocco said...

I bet Clive Irving wears shorts when he travels too.

Titus said...

My hubby and I just returned from London and Paris. We have friends there and don't talk to the "locals".

But we are the fab type Americans and blend in. We are thin, dress well, and are a multicutural gay couple.

We see the ugly Americans in these cities and cringe.

tits and muscles.

Paddy O said...

In Scetis, a brother went to see Abba Moses and begged him for a word. The old man said, "Go and sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything."

Sayings of the Desert Fathers

cubanbob said...

Gosh what a bunch of sourpusses and self righteous Debbie Downers commenting here. If you don't like travelling, don't. But your personal dislike doesn't invalidate the value for others. Seeing a photo of the Mona Lisa isn't quite the same as seeing it in person at the Louvre.

The Godfather said...

My wife and I are not great world travelers, but we've gotten around (mostly the UK, Ireland, parts of Europe, the Caribbean, and Central America; we haven't been to Ankor Wat, and don't care to). But we have been, e.g., to Skara Brae, and I'll use that as an example of the difference between being there, and reading about it. It was 25 years ago, and I still remember it. Seeing pictures of it, or reading about it, are fine, but they really can't give you a sense of the place and of the life that the ancient peoples who lived there experienced. (BTW, if there are other people around, you can block them out of your attention, even if you can't get them out of your photos, except with photoshop). Perhaps other people's imaginations work differently from mine, but there's hardly any place I've visited that was just like what I thought it would be from reading about it. (I remember walking around the back of Notre Dame Cathedral and seeing the back door where they set out the trash barrels. I bet you never read about that or saw a picture in National Geographic.)

As I think I've mentioned before, as a lad of 17 I hiked across the Grand Canyon. I will NEVER forget that. So travel does indeed include the US.

Ann Althouse said...

Watching people cluster around the Mona Lisa is depressing.

I value looking at paintings, but the other people can really wreck the experience.

It is, obviously, important to see paintings in person, but seeing any one particular painting isn't important.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for the quote, Paddy. Very nice.

Michael K said...

I've traveled to Europe and Australia as a tourist but always visited places I knew from reading and my study of history. I have taken my children on many of these trips and they, in turn, have traveled on their own. One daughter lived a year in Spain. Another majored in French and was hoping to live and work in France but has not been able to so far.

The only tours I have been on are medical history tours run by the Royal Society of Medicine which I have been a member of for 40 years. None of the trips are "If it's Tuesday, it must be Belgium" types. I was very disappointed at having to cancel a planned trip to Greece this year because of the Greek economy and the "migrants." Instead we went to Belgium with friends from England and visited the Battle of Waterloo museum. This June was the 200th anniversary of the battle and one of our friends had an ancestor in the Wellington army at the battle.

For years, my wife and I went to London for a week or so in the winter to see the shows playing in the West End. I hate New York and would rather fly a few more hours.

I have also been in almost every state and have been to Alaska many times and have an Alaska medical license.

Michael K said...

"We see the ugly Americans in these cities and cringe."

Titus, a well known nonreader, is unaware that "The Ugly American" was the hero of the novel.

Say hello to the Muslims next trip, Titus.

John said...

I constantly run across people who want to tell me all about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans juan hotel. If they were really adventurous, they took a bus tour to the rain forest.

Now they are experts.

I try to just smile and be polite.

John henry

John said...

I do industrial tourism. I spend travel around to interesting places, work with interesting processes and gent to meet interesting people.

I will often go a day or two early and see the sights. I've been to a number of national parks.

I find the regular tourist travel boring and rather pointless for the most part.

I also like getting paid for being a tourist instead of having to payout of my own pocket.

John Henry

John said...

And what is it with tourists and selfish?

When I was in Milan in June (more industrial tourism) I had a free afternoon and visited the main cather=deal square.

Very nice and I am glad I had the chance to go. One of the things that impressed me was how many people were selling selfish sticks. There must have been 50 just in the plaza.

I was one of the only people without one.

I also got to see the plant floor at Maserati and the Rivoli art gallery. Maserati by far had the better art. T

The Tivoli castle had things like piles of old rags, a tasteful grouping of wrecked motorscooters and a bunch of glass bottles full of black ink. This was primo Italian art by the best names.

If I'd paid for this, I would have wanted my money back.

Not "art", it was "phart" to use a term someone else coined here not long ago.

John Henry

Wayworn Wanderer said...

Vacation with Veblen! Conspicuous consumption is still with us, 116 years after The Theory of the Leisure Class was published.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Might as well as get used to not traveling outside the U.S., as there will be a retaliatory ban on America s traveling abroad after Trump is elected President.

Joe said...

I've traveled a bit, but can probably count the numbers of times I've been truly awed on two hands. Three that pop into my mind are Masada/The Dead Sea, standing under the Eiffel Tower (Paris otherwise bored the shit out of me [to join all the shit on the sidewalks]) and the North Shore of Oahu in early December.

Michael said...

I refuse to go have a look at the Mona Lisa or any other important work of art that will be blocked by box checking tourists. You don't have those kinds of crowds in, say, the Prado where many great works of art are homed. I generally avoid the avoidable "must sees" preferring instead to walk parts of the cities where Americans or gringos don't generally go. In Tokyo I will take the subway a number of stops and emerge in an extra-foreign country where language and landmarks are completely unknown to me, and I love that kind of disorientation, the feeling of being utterly alone and helpless in a sea of strangers. You can't buy a book on this. You can't read about this. You have to do it. It stick with you in a way that literature does not.

I have been spending more time in the UK and don't have to ask to converse about American exceptionalism. In due course one will be given an ear full, generally on the evil GWB and his collaboration with Tony Blair in tricking the entire world into a war in Iraq. No one can tell why but they are on the conspiracy. Well schooled in these views by the likes of our very own Cook I have some practice in this discussion. But it cannot be won even if I stipulate at the outset that GWB and TB collaborated to pump up oil prices and enrich Halliburton. They go on and on.

Bill said...

"As Jane Austin taught us, the non-parochial mind can make do with a parish."

-Clifton Fadiman

Iapetus said...

When I visited Angkor with a tour group in 1994, there weren't a lot of other tourists there, even at the Wat, but we did see more than a few soldiers on duty who were carrying machine guns. What we didn't know at the time was that a fierce battle was going on down the road apiece. We only learned about it later on, and that the army had routed the Khmer Rouge in the firefight. Now that's an interesting experience you don't get from arm-chair travel.

Last year I went to Pitcairn Island and made it ashore. Got a chance to meet some of its three dozen inhabitants. Apart from its history, Pitcairn is an interesting place to visit. Next year I get to return to Papua New Guinea, having last visited it in 1992. It, too, is a very interesting place. I'm sure there've been a lot of changes since I was there last. In an earlier post, rhhardin said all motels are alike. Not in PNG, they aren't.

There are too many places in the world to go, things to see, people to meet. If you leave travel for your old age, you won't have enough time or energy to experience it all. If you enjoy doing it, travel is something you should start doing while you're young and adventurous.

Michael said...

Left Bank

Doubtful.

Michael K said...

There is a sort of reverse snobbery on display here.

"I don't travel because it is so plebeian."

Amusing.

Showing your children the Lascaux cave paintings is worth a lot of crap from Philistines.

Peter said...

"It is, obviously, important to see paintings in person."

Is it? The Mona Lisa doesn't look much as it did when it was new; the surface is badly crazed and the entire work has been darkened by layers of varnish applied over the centuries to preserve it. Arguably a computer-mediated restoration that removes the crazing and reverses the darkening will show an image that's significantly closer to what the artist created.
____


Although the real problem with travel has to be the "wherever you go, there you are" problem. Not only is it impossible to get away from oneself, but, it is all but impossible to see a truly foreign place without viewing it, and inevitably comparing-and-contrasting it, with one's native culture.

Steve said...

So Just to summarize:

1) The cool to kids go to Rome;

2) The cool kids go to Angkor Wat, because the riffraff are in Rome;

3) The cool kids go drive to Colorado, because the riffraff are in Angkor Wat.

I think I'll do whatever the heck I want and just not care what the cool kids are saying.

BN said...

"I question this belief in the kind of "personal contact" you can get from foreign travel."

What, you've never been pick pocketed? Have you never acyually been abroad?