Monday, February 17, 2014

Travelers versus tourists... apparently we're still bickering about it

Boudhanath, Nepal. I hate watermarks. The reason it's there is a long story.

I've somehow ended up in an argument on the Internet.

No surprise there, I suppose - especially when you consider that I adore a good rumble, and the rabid world of travel marketing pros on LinkedIn does, too. If sharks could exist out of water and teleport themselves into a social network, this is the seedy corner they'd pick.* Everyone's eager to be the person with definitive answers, the worldly maverick who is past being surprised. Blase, cool, adventurous. Self-promotional.

I think that's where this stupid "travelers versus tourists" argument came from, which has now been going on for over a month. I think, despite everything else - constricted employment driving longer-term travel, environmental and globalized social awareness, the growth of the budget segment - THIS egocentrism is ultimately driving the impulse to draw this dividing line.

Why do we travel? There are a lot of popular reasons, from curiosity to empathy to adrenaline. Some of them are even true.

But I think there's one almost universally unacknowledged reason: we travel because we want to think of ourselves as the kind of people who travel.

Well, now we've gone and done it.

Now our egos, vanities, and personal prides are tied up in it. I usually hold no judgment against ego - sometimes it's an excellent fucking motivator. But not like this. Not when we're artificially dividing ourselves into "good" and "bad," sensitive and crass, authentic and plasticated. Meanwhile, arguments on the Internet are just about the cheapest form of activism there is.

Doesn't mean they don't matter.

*What was that analogy? Dunno. Will I delete it? NO!

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