May 18, 2017

"I learned about post-tourism, which is just research jargon for traveling hipsters: believing there’s no authenticity left in the world, they enjoy tourist attractions ironically."

From "Thomas Cook and the Stack Pirates/Boredom and an enterprising Brit gave birth to the modern tourism industry, and we’re still trying to make sense of it all" by Mary Mann (via Metafilter). I'd never seen the term "post-tourism" before, and there's lots more in the article than that idea, including the process of doing research in a library...
Modern tourism started in England, which makes sense — a colonizing country is probably a restless country — but by the mid twentieth century people from all over the world were touring. Tourism became a thing; you could tell because people had started studying it. The stacks are full of their books: The Ethics of Sightseeing, The Language of Tour­ism, The Tourist Gaze, and so on for longer than you’d care to read. Before venturing into the stacks I’d never read a book on tourism, but I knew the industry from working in it, first as a guide and then as a copywriter....
The long chatty article ends with another reference to "post-tourism":
It would be easy to admit defeat, to become the “post­-tourists” researchers write about, committed to the idea that there’s no such thing as authentic experience so we might as well laugh at it all. That seems like the most boring fate of all....

The parishioners who came to my dad [a pastor] for ad­vice all asked versions of the same question: How can I be free? Free from grief, from anxiety, from anger. Free from the purposelessness of boredom, the result of a dull job or a stale marriage or the tedium of too many identical days in a small town. But, depressed, my dad wasn’t free either; so there they sat, week after week, year after year, prisoners theorizing about their chains. Travel, at least in the books I read, offered to press pause on those questions in order to ask a single question that, if it could be an­swered, would make it one hundred times easier to figure everything else out: Free for what?
Notice that this idea is that ordinary life is a problem and travel helps by removing you from ordinary life, perhaps to give you a new perspective on ordinary life. But if ordinary life is not, for you, a problem — not everyone is depressed — then perhaps you do need to confront the problem of authenticity, because ordinary life is (probably) authentic, and perhaps the answer is post-tourism. 

Here's another article on the subject: "Authentic outsiders? Welcome to the age of the ‘post-tourist.'"
“Post-tourism” is an ambiguous term, certainly, but it invariably suggests something of a departure from everyday “boring” tourism. The rise of the post tourist – as an offshoot of the dreaded hipster and their avoidance of tourist hotspots and maps – is symptomatic of this “tourism-as-performance” phenomenon....

Post tourism abides by narratives of self-righteous struggle, “tourist-shaming” those who continue to visit predictable tourist spots such as the Berlin Wall or the Eiffel Tower. Hence, post tourism is partly defined by an underlying sense of posturing where travelling is concerned.... Any traveller or tourist in another country inevitably remains an outsider.

53 comments:

Jack Wayne said...

First world problems increase daily.

JOB said...

Absolutely essential to this discussion...

JOB

http://boblyman.net/engwr302/handouts/Loss%20of%20the%20Creature.pdf

Virtually Unknown said...

The trick is to enjoy the world's biggest ball of twine authentically ironically, that's what hipsters manage that the rest of us just can't get right.

rcocean said...

So, its really a class thing, to prove you're somehow better than everyone else.

I liked the Eiffel Tower, however, neither my wife nor myself were going to wait in line for it. So, we went at dusk, and skipped the overloaded elevators. Don't think I'd every go there again, but it was OK. BTW, when windy the Tower sways a lot, so it can be scary who don't like that sort of thing.

traditionalguy said...

Many places are great for spending a few days or even a week, but only a few create deeply embedded memories drawing you back. My short list includes Carmel by the Sea, Stratford, On. and Williamsburg, Va. ( or, Steinbeck, Shakespeare and Jefferson)

rcocean said...

Probably worst Tourist thing I ever did was go the tower of London. that was a whole lot of nothing.

Paddy O said...

post-pastoring leads to post-tourism which seems to embrace post-freedom.

The troubles of people spending a lot of time looking east during a sunset.

Virtually Unknown said...

At least a lot of hipsters can really cook. I appreciate that about them, but not ironically. Even if they enjoy my enjoyment of their comestible art ironically.

rcocean said...

"Williamsburg, Va."

Yeah, I loved Williamsburg. I'd go back every year if I could. Same thing with Paris art museums.

Iconochasm said...

The fundamental problem with hipsters is the very lack of authenticity they decry in others. Thats why hipsters are like porn; it's hard to give a precise definition, but everyone thinks they know one when they see one. The flag isn't any particular clothing or habit or whatever, it's the atavistic alarm going off in the back of your head, screaming "Untrustworthy! Bad ally! Insincere!"

rehajm said...

So long as these assholes don't start playing golf ironically.

robother said...

India is great: you can overdose on "authentic" for a day to a week, and then take shelter in reasonably priced hotels that are run by people who are naturally the best hosts in the world.

dda6ga dda6ga said...

too much money, too much time free of work, and a lot of other people willing to take their money and spout bromides in their ear..

Bad Lieutenant said...

Iconochasm said...
The fundamental problem with hipsters is the very lack of authenticity they decry in others. Thats why hipsters are like porn; it's hard to give a precise definition, but everyone thinks they know one when they see one. The flag isn't any particular clothing or habit or whatever, it's the atavistic alarm going off in the back of your head, screaming "Untrustworthy! Bad ally! Insincere!"
5/18/17, 9:41 AM


The best test is to hit them and see what they do.

Roy Jacobsen said...

Pitiful creatures, hipsters. And by that, I mean I do pity them. They're so obsessed with not being seen as uncool that they can't allow themselves to just *enjoy* anything.

Amexpat said...

I travel a lot, both for work and privately. It's not that hard to get away from the places that cater to tourists. Often it's just a matter of walking a few blocks off the main drag.

Personally, I like travelling to 2nd and 3rd tier cities in the countries I visit - more things to discover when you know less about a place. I mostly use AirBnb for leisure travel, which gives an insight in how locals live for far less than staying at a hotel.

Njall said...

When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez
And it’s Eastertime too
And your gravity fails
And negativity don’t pull you through....

buwaya puti said...

"travel helps by removing you from ordinary life, perhaps to give you a new perspective on ordinary life. "

Exactly this, or rather a perspective on an ordinary PLACE. Which may actually not be so ordinary. Perspective is important, and "ordinary life" leaves the danger that a parochial sort of outlook will develop and become weird, with limited scope and exaggerated feedback.

Speaking as a descendant of generations of expats, colonialists, settlers and world travelers.

buwaya puti said...

Granted, tourists don't usually have the background to understand what they are seeing, and are usually ill equipped to learn (no languages, local contacts, or sustained interest. And tourists normally have a very constrained idea about what they want from a trip. They are incurious.

And hipsters are different only in that they mostly don't understand that they are just as ill equipped.

MadisonMan said...

When a hipster chides you for enjoying a tourist attraction, you just smile, say "Bless Your Heart" and pat them on the head.

Cath said...

Seems like this is not a problem if you're traveling to see places and things you genuinely want to see. It only becomes an issue if you're more concerned about what your cool, judgey friends are going to think about your choices - like your travel is more about self-expression than about doing things you actually want to do.

tcrosse said...

What I like about Las Vegas is that it is totally artificial and touristy. Because it's so raffish there's little use for virtue signalling.

Unknown said...

I suspect these people more likely enjoy these "touristy" experiences, but their sense of cool is so strong that they can't just admit it. Instead they create this idea that they are participating in a self-aware way that involves mocking. It's like the kid who still likes playing with army men while his friends have moved beyond it. If they find out he's got to figure out how to make his hobby seem ironic or cool somehow.

Guildofcannonballs said...

I would prefer "had known" or "know" to her "knew."

It ain't no present to me when used in the present, knew.

Knew what I mean?

wildswan said...

In the old days you were travelling to see art you'd read about in Rome or Florence (the Growth of The Renaissance) or the Pyramids and the Nile (Where Western civilization Began) or Japanese art (Vision and Design) and so on. Or you were going to be a diplomat and you needed to know how people thought in your area of specialization. It fit into a cosmic scheme and there was no other way to see it. Those travelers didn't get bored. But now you can see the art (sort of) on your computer. And learn languages listening to foreign speakers. And see the actual places on Google Earth. Somehow this has made it harder to get out of the postcard and into the place ... for some. But it's weird that hipsters who don't bother learning the culture in advance should have that problem. In my experience if you read the classic books and look at the classic art connected with a place it is overwhelmingly interesting to be in the actuality.

William said...

Many people enjoy sex, but the most refined pleasure of sex is expressing disapproval of people who enjoy it in the wrong kind of way.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I've decided that I enjoy hipsters ironically.

Daniel Jackson said...

I apologize; but, I cannot resist.

Invented “tourism” did he? What complete bunk. Sorry. Once again, the Protestant White Man claims authorship that has existed for millenia, albeit by a different name—pilgrimage.

Under the rubric of “ethno-tourism,” pilgrimage and its process (pun intended) was a very popular topic among anthropologists throughout the sixties and seventies. The dependent variable, pilgrimage, was studied extensively in south and southeast asia to say nothing of medieval europe. More importantly, there was always a linkage between travel (to religious shrines for spiritual benefits) and religion.

Cook was merely appropriating what has been in practice across cultures and epochs linking “temperance and tourism.” See Sagar Singh's account of ancient pilgrimage in the Indus Valley/Harappan Civilization in Hindu practice: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13683500408667972

Around the thirteenth century, for example, in India and Europe, traveling mendicants would sing the praises of a temple or a cathedral extolling its value in bestowing divine gifts if only the person would come to receive them. People would travel in groups, developing camaraderie, arrive at the shrine/locale, share libations and give offerings, and then return to their homes. See Victor Turner's Forest of Symbols for a classic treatment of this process.

The Canterbury Tales comes to mind; so does the Mahabharata; lest not we forget the Torah that commands people to take their money and celebrate with feasting and strong drink three times a year. Of course, we should not forget Lourdes in France.

Pilgrims/ethno-tourists take up the route, with great fanfare at home, journey with difficulty to a faraway place, party hearty, and then return with wonderful tales of their spiritual gain from the travel.

In the early nineteenth century, many Americans made such journeys (not unlike Melville) seeking to “drive off the spleen and regulate the circulation). Cook's connection of a Protestant religious movement and travel is hardly new nor uniquely English. Rather, it could be argued a bit more forcefully that with the advance of industrialization, more and more people could afford the passage to India or Jerusalem or many other exotic locations to further their spiritual experience.

Modern tourists might argue there is nothing “religious” about going to Thailand for a sexual experience (or going to Holland or Germany for sex-tourism); but, this too is hardly original nor is it unassociated with a religious pilgrimage. Fully anticipating this trend, the temples of Khajuraho, built between the 10th to 12th centuries not only decorated their temple exteriors with pornographic art; but, promoted the religious experience through Tantra Yoga (hotly debated among the Snow Flake Asianists) with Deva Dasis who, for a mere donation, would gladly initiate pilgrims into the mystical arts. What is Kundalini? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnGidCFUB3k

Nope; there is nothing new or neo about tourism; it has always existed and always will.

GRW3 said...

I don't tour, I travel for business but I do get to see some things. I think the important thing to do is see things that interest you. I know that may be an odd locution but, really, if you take a tour you're seeing something somebody else is interested in. My business has taken me all over England. I'm interested in history and aviation so I've been to most of the significant aviation museums in England. My primary problem with touring is with people who confuse touring in Europe as being an authentic experience. When someone tells me how wonderful a place it is, I ask if they've ever been there (particularly if they have any kind of mobility issue as the US is way ahead on handicap accommodations). If they have, I ask if they've every had to do anything there, besides be on time for the bus. You can only understand Europe (or any place I suppose) if you have to actually get something accomplished on your own.

Michael said...

Travel is different for each. When I am in Tokyo I hop on the subways or trains and exit at a random stop. I do not read or speak the language which I see as a great advantage on my meanderings. I am compelled to concentrate on where I have been and to observe very carefully that which I pass. Using this technique I have given alms to monks, watched baseball games, trudged some underclass neighborhoods, eaten street food, seen extraordinary wedding parties. Random good.

I try to carve out half a day for these excursions when in a foreign country except in Central America where I tend not to be so random for obvious reasons.

Fernandinande said...

"post-tourism"

Coming next: post-cards.

caplight45 said...

I don't tour. I get to build clinics, schools and churches. I have also provided medical care under the supervision of a physician. My usual experience in a capital or major foreign city is the airport or the airport hotel before I am taken to our work sight in a village or small town hours away. No hipsters in sight.

DanTheMan said...

>>I liked the Eiffel Tower, however, neither my wife nor myself were going to wait in line for it. So, we went at dusk, and skipped the overloaded elevators

You have to go through security now just to walk under the tower. The lines to go up are VERY long, all day and all night....

DanTheMan said...

>> It only becomes an issue if you're more concerned about what your cool, judgey friends are going to think about your choices

Cath for the win!

Earnest Prole said...

""I learned about post-tourism, which is just research jargon for traveling hipsters: believing there’s no authenticity left in the world, they enjoy tourist attractions ironically.””

The author is only fifty-five years (or so) late to this particular epiphany. Daniel Boorstin wrote of it in his 1961 book The Image.

“Of travel, [Boorstin] would say that tourists increasingly demanded experiences that would ‘become bland and unsurprising reproductions of what the image-flooded tourist knew was there all the time,’” Neal Gabler notes in the Los Angeles Times’ article “Daniel Boorstin got it right in 'The Image’”

“The historian wrote 50 years ago that U.S. culture was moving away from substance toward sensationalism in an era of mass media. And so postmodernism was born.”

Unknown said...

For me, life IS authentic, and travel is just fun. Where did the idea come from that travel would enlighten you or deepen your soul? The article only makes sense if you are trying to escape your life.
And what is with this "authentic" crap? Does that mean finding people who live quaint, backward lives diving for sponges or hunting monkeys without wearing t-shirts have US sports teams on them? People who have never tasted pizza or seen Spiderman movies? So, they are lamenting having no one whose life they can exploit for thrills as sufficiently primitive? argh

tcrosse said...

When the NYT does a Travel Section piece on any city, they usually highlight the club scene, the chic shops, and galleries: all the stuff that's Just Like Back Home.

readering said...

Tourism is big dollars. Contributes net favorable about $7B a month to our trade balance. So far don't see evidence in $$ records that the new administration is scaring foreigners away

Pianoman said...

There's definitely "tourist traps" out there, so when the lovely Mrs. Pianoman and I travel, we do our best to avoid them. But most of the experiences that we have shared have been *very* positive ones. As is. No "hipster irony" needed.

This just looks like more virtue-signaling to me.

Just because they sell T-Shirts at the Cliffs Of Moer doesn't make the cliffs any less incredible. Just because CDs are sold in an Irish Pub doesn't make the music any less joyous and fun. Just because there's a lot of people waiting to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower doesn't make the Tower any less incredible.

I feel sorry for people who are doing that to themselves. They're ruining the joy of international travel.

readering said...

From last weekend:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/11/travel/what-to-do-36-hours-in-detroit-michigan.html

GAHCindy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Lee said...

I like traveling. I think it's funny that you can't be cool and go to the usual tourist spots. It's been my experience that tourist spots become tourist spots for a reason. Sure, there's more to India than the Taj Mahal, but there's also nothing quite like the Taj Mahal. You'd have to be an idiot to go to India and not see the effing Taj Mahal.

TerriW said...


I was reading a book about 10 years ago by ... uh, I think, Chuck Klosterman (whose name I didn't remember, but a google search of "North Dakota hipster author" turned right up). But I'm getting old now; all the decade+ ago books start to run together.

Anyhow, he was talking about what he called Scheissenbedaurn -- from German, literally "shit regret" -- the uncomfortable feeling you get when you go to an event ironically, only to discover you actually enjoy it. (Say, a Barry Manilow concert.)

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"travel helps by removing you from ordinary life, perhaps to give you a new perspective on ordinary life. "

Yes. When you are in one place, at home, in the same town for any extended period of time, the things you see, the things you own, and even the people around you just become background. You don't actually SEE them. The are background, static, unobserved items.

When you have traveled, even for just a few days, you look upon your return with new eyes. Suddenly you realize how pretty your location is...or conversely see the flaws that you have been overlooking. Having been gone from my house for a few weeks, I look at everything as if new, with a critical eye. Noticing the placement or OUT of placement of items.

On a personal level, I get a new appreciation of my life, my home, my surroundings after traveling. As much fun as it was to go someplace else, see new things.....I love my home and my area even more upon returning.

Big Mike said...

Is there anything at all that hipsters can't screw up?

Daniel Jackson said...

Dust Bunny Queen wrote:

"Yes. When you are in one place, at home, in the same town for any extended period of time, the things you see, the things you own, and even the people around you just become background. You don't actually SEE them. The are background, static, unobserved items.

When you have traveled, even for just a few days, you look upon your return with new eyes. Suddenly you realize how pretty your location is...or conversely see the flaws that you have been overlooking. Having been gone from my house for a few weeks, I look at everything as if new, with a critical eye. Noticing the placement or OUT of placement of items.

On a personal level, I get a new appreciation of my life, my home, my surroundings after traveling. As much fun as it was to go someplace else, see new things.....I love my home and my area even more upon returning."

What a beautifully profound observation this is. Thank you for sharing that. Really.

I think THIS experience is the reason why pilgrimage/tourism is such an archetype in the human experience. It is truly a rejuvenative experience; a re-creation if you will.

Jay Vogt said...

Ahhh, the old "tourist vs. traveller" shibboleth. Sorry, they're one and the same.

Also, is anyone else bored by the chronic misuse of the word "ironic". It means "an outcome that is in paradox to an input", not "I'm doing something for reasons that YOU can't comprehend . . . and they're better than your reasons too".

Jay Vogt said...

DanTheMan said...You have to go through security now just to walk under the tower. The lines to go up are VERY long, all day and all night....

When I saw this for the first time, it was the moment that made me really question how well France will keep itself together - literally and figuratively.

I think it is very scary

SukieTawdry said...

Why is this so unnecessarily complicated. There are a lot of wonderful things to see in this world. Get out and see them.

DanTheMan said...

>>it was the moment that made me really question how well France will keep itself together - literally and figuratively.

I think the French will be fine. They may be a bit more fatalistic and accommodating than we are in the US, but they firmly believe in the superiority of France and French culture. They are not hampered by PC and self-loathing that we seem to be obsessed with.
It might take another Bataclan or two, but at some point, the French will act. When they do, it will not be a half measure.

Jay Vogt said...

I think the French will be fine. . . . They are not hampered by PC and self-loathing that we seem to be obsessed with.
It might take another Bataclan or two, but at some point, the French will act. When they do, it will not be a half measure.


An optimist then. That's good.

I'm afraid the gradualness of this strategic retreat is a bit too convincing for me. You're right though in that if anyone could pull it off, it would be the French .

Professional lady said...

My husband and I went to Florence and Rome last year. We had a lot of fun together and enjoyed each other's company a lot. When I was a child, my parents had a Time Life book that included pictures of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I was fascinated by those photos but I never dreamed I would ever get to actually see Michelangelo's frescos. When were there, I sat in the chapel for an hour (with a couple hundred other people)and just looked at them. I guess a hipster would find that pretty kitsch and touristy.

Kirk Parker said...

Then there was the time when I, the classics major, had a near-ecstatic experience in the British Museum looking at the actual Rosetta Stone.