‘I didn’t want to be dancing alongside a bunch of tourists…’
I had to read the line again.
”I didn’t want to be dancing alongside a bunch of tourists…’
Eleven words that highlight the quite bizarre snobbery occasionally found in travel writing and blogging.
The author was describing why he had ignored Rio’s carnaval in favour of a lesser known affair; one that tourists didn’t go to. I’m constantly stumbling across these sort of comments in blogs and most of the time they rub me up like parmeson on a cheese grater. The same thought explodes in my head every time:
Who the hell do you think you are?
This isn’t a tourist v traveller rant (although done to death though they are, I still love to read these debates; they tell you an awful lot about people). I don’t like or dislike tourists and I don’t like or dislike travellers. I like or dislike people and their attitudes.
There are a number or reasons why this particular travel blogger’s statement is annoyingly self deluded and you can pretty much apply them to a variety of similar situations and comments in the world of travel blogging and travel writing.
Once you start to deconstruct comments like these, they’re clearly nonsensical and wouldn’t hold up in court for a number of reasons:
- Being another ‘proper’ traveller I turn up at this carnaval and see this tourist-hater dancing happily, having an ‘authentic’ experience. But hey, I don’t know that – he’s not got a label telling me he’s a real traveller. All I can see is that he’s clearly not a local. Being a real traveller myself I don’t want to be dancing alongside a tourist so off I go in search of a more authentic festival. What tosh.
- Q: How does he identify who is a tourist? The answer is that he can’t. Or does he think he can tell travellers from tourists by the way they look? But suppose someone on a package holiday isn’t wearing a baggy Primark T-shirt, too short shorts and socks under their sandals? Suppose they’re dressed similar to him? Damn the bounders. They’re at the carnival masquerading as bona-fide travellers. To him someone – unless he’s interviewed said offending tourists – is a tourist if visually they don’t fit his image of a ‘traveller’.
- Are there only certain ‘tourists’ he has a problem mingling and sharing his travel experience with? Didn’t he know the woman dancing next to him came from a different Brazilian city, so that makes her a tourist. But she’s speaking the same language as the locals, so matey can’t tell.
The most serious crime amongst the anti-tourist league is that their attitude can reek of the distasteful aroma of stereotyping, prejudice and possibly even indirect class distinction. The truth is most don’t really know who is and who isn’t a tourist at all. When I’ve visited famous (or even not so famous) tourist attractions around the world, the people who have ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ around me have nearly always included people from the same country as the attraction.
When our prejudiced friend seeks out that authentic Spanish Tasca full of lively, chattering locals – how does he know that they aren’t a load of tourists that have just descended en-masse in a coach from another part of Iberia? Nine times out of Ten, he doesn’t.
He doesn’t dislike tourists, he dislikes people he thinks of as ‘tourists’ – and these are often people from his own country who don’t fit his image of what a ‘traveller’ should look like. I’m saying look like rather than behave like because sometimes the distinction escapes me. Personally I’ve never understood why a tourist in a karaoke bar is naff when a traveller in one is being amusingly ironic.
Why anyone who works 50 weeks a year and who recharges their batteries over two weeks in another country, spending their hard earned dosh in local bars, restaurants and shops (i.e. the local community) should be looked down upon has always puzzled and irritated me.
At the beginning of this I asked of the blogger ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’
But there’s another question I think is important. ‘What do you think the locals think you are?”
Because the answer to that my misguided friend is that when you turn up in my hometown you may apply to yourself whatever label you prefer, but to me you’re simply a tourist like everyone else.
In the words of Alabama 3: “There ain’t nothing worse than some fool lying on some third world beach wearing spandex, psychedelic trousers, smoking damn dope pretending he’s gettin’ consciousness expansion…”