Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ugly tourist

Since when did travelling become an activity like visiting a zoo where the tourist pays and expects to ‘experience’ something? The tourist adopts a condescending attitude in his interaction with the locals, often oblivious to the numerous insults spoken behind his back (or into his face) in their native tongues. He sees travelling as a service industry – I pay for it, I deserve it.

Since when did saving S$0.30 become of utmost importance that people make enemies out of possible friends? In my opinion, the art of bargaining entails a clause stating that both parties should benefit from the deal. S$0.30 might not mean much to us, but it straddles between the ‘hungry’ and ‘full’ line for some locals. More often than not, the ugly tourist benefits, and the local, in order to minimize his losses, strikes a disadvantageous deal. He has no choice, and the ugly tourist often forces this hand. I like the way Bernard views this issue, “I don’t mind paying that extra bit because it doesn’t amount to much when you convert it back and you make the provider of services happy, adding further to the global positive experience of the whole trip.”

No doubt, tourism has evolved over the years into a sort of service industry. People will do all sorts of things to never experience hunger ever again. Hence if they know that ignorant fools from abroad are coming to throw money at them for something they wish to ‘experience’, they will lap at it. There is however a substantial population of backpackers who have managed to preserve the loss art of travelling. They do not pay for experiences, but often get them via communication, genuinity in interaction and love.

I strive to hold myself to the higher standard of a traveler. The traveler knows that he is but a passer-by in a native land and views the locals as fellow human beings; as equals. He immerses himself into the heartbeat of the native land and connects with its life source. The tourist, high up in his ivory tower, often misses out on this aspect. Even if he claims to have experienced some semblance of an immersion, it might not be as authentic as the cash he paid to ‘experience’ it. Hence, the tourist usually returns back home thinking that the trip was ‘nothing much’. The traveler’s experience can never be bought with any currency in the world. He has with him the arsenal of human interactions and connections. He often returns home a humbled person...
"There are no strangers, just friends we haven't met" - Professor Low Cheng Hock

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Hey bro, great reading your posts! Leave you with this entry:

By Russ (author):
The challenge is to remember what the world looks like with your traveler’s eyes; to see things as if you were passing by on some far flung adventure, even though you are at home.

These are the insights that I will try to remember.

The traveler is expectant and open and sees the beauty in things when others do not. A traveler is good natured to strangers, because he understands our fundamental interdependence with each other. The traveler operates in deep karmic debt and repays what he can when he can, joyfully. The traveler eats heartily, because he understands each meal is a gift. The traveler knows that it is the people, and not always the places, that he will remember long after he has stopped moving. The traveler believes in the fundamental kindness of strangers and walks through crowds with a smile. The traveler knows that enough is plenty and the quest for perfection leads to suffering. The traveler knows that no person is better than anyone else, because he has dined and conversed with kings and knaves and has found joy and sadness in both. The traveler relishes in the idea that all he needs to live can fit in a duffle slung over his shoulder. The traveler talks to every person excitedly because he is fascinated in everyone’s unique narrative. The traveler knows that both moments of exhaulted pleasure and suffering will pass in due course and he is richer for both. The traveler knows he will never be in the same place with the same mind ever again. The traveler sees each day as ripe with possibility and chance encounters. The traveler knows that it is because his journey must one day end, that it has meaning. The traveler’s curiosity trumps his fear. The traveler is thankful for every day he is on the road.