tourist culture

Having never surfed, let me say that I think travelling is in some respects like surfing. You get up a certain amount of speed and ride the wave, which eventually ends and you need to paddle out again to catch the next one. It’s billed as a cool relaxed lifestyle but when you’re actually doing it it’s exhausting. There are a million things to think about and everything is just a little more difficult.

Staying at the hostal reminded me that there is a whole culture built around providing services for people with too much money: drugs, sex, companionship, etc. It´s crazy though cause local people infected with this culture act overly friendly and then lay their agenda on you, then act shocked when you are suspicious. I assume that as long as there’s been tourism there’s been this odd culture of service but it always catches me by surprise, perhaps because it involves a certain amount of deception. These people aren’t your friends any more than a prostitute is your lover. In this fairly magical culture people use phrases like “you’re my good friend” and “just for you” and “oh… there’s just one thing i have to do on the way” to hide clearly suspicious activity ranging from trying to get me to buy something to bring home to trying to getting a money loan so they can buy drugs.

There’s a sad cycle involved. The vendors push trinkets and things for you to buy because people do buy them. If there were no buyers they would not try so hard. But they do it because they know they might succeed. People want the service.

But the other (and perhaps more insidious) side of the coin is that there is a huge demand for this type of attention. People want to go somewhere far, have a one night stand with a local who tells them they´re the greatest lover in the world, engage in semidangerous situations that end with them losing their money and gear. Apparrently for a lot of people that’s what travelling is all about. If the sites were free, who would go look at them? These days people like to pay for fun otherwise how will they know if they’re enjoying themselves and having an “authentic” experience.

Everyone wants the illusive “authentic” experience and looks jealously at other travellers because everyone else is having the more “authentic” experience. Two hardcore trekkers in the SAE made a rookie remark: “We want to go where there are there are no white faces: there are too many white faces in this room.” Irritated and trying to be clever I retorted: “well, there’s really only one way to fix that! though I really ought to have said “I think you’re going to have that problem wherever your go”.

So many people travel to escape themselves only to find a million people just like them. It’s very What the Bleep Do We Know? but until they change their own lens, very little will change for them.

At the same time there are lot of services that are not provided. In fact actual information like the fact that you can’t get to Arrequipa (and consequently the Southern part of the country) is blocked off by strikes and no buses or cars can enter the city. Most people are unconcerned about this. Saying “I think a might head off to Arrequipa” will ellicit a response of “oh, lovely weather” not “hmmm… I think Arrequipa might be difficult because there’s a lot of burning tires and broken glass (not that I’m saying there is, it’s impossible to tell). It’s a normal phenomenon like clouds in the sky and no one is going to go do tough reporting on clouds in the sky even when it involves violent confrontations with the police.

1 reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply