Friday, January 17, 2014

Tourists versus Travellers

Or rather, me versus travellers. You’re on holiday, I’m on holiday. You might not like your sojourn being reduced to the same level as mine but its an inescapable truth.

Let us begin with some simple definitions:

holiday n time spent away from home for rest or recreation; day or other period of rest from work or studies

tourist n person travelling for pleasure

travel v to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship

traveller n person who travels

As you can see, the above definitions apply to both groups yet they, or we, consider one another with contempt.

There was a time when travel was the preserve of the wealthy and adventurous, the children of industrialists with ready made careers and fortunes ahead of them. It is now available to us all and we have become rather tribal about the whole thing.

We no longer set off with great fanfare at The Royal Geographical Society, you can of course but it is much easier embarking from one of a number of provincial airports which are allied to larger towns and cities with little or no discernible link. At least Leeds and Bradford are relatively close but London Luton?

You sneer at my holiday just because I’m choosing comfort, comfort is hugely underrated. It would take a lot of persuading for me to consider swapping a fortnight of comfort for six months in something lifted from the set of Tenko. If you want an authentic experience living like the natives try it in some of the shit holes the UK has to offer, I’m sure there are many people in Merthyr Tydfil, Hull and Salford for example who would happily take your money and let you share their squalor - Britain could well be your oyster.

If you’re so enamoured of travel for the sake of it I can heartily recommend the Circle line and to give it a Bangkok flavour just try it on any weekday at 8.30am with a couple of wheeled cases and a rucksack. No one will speak to you, you’ll feel distinctly alien and sweat will actually spray rather than seep from you.

At the airport you take up too much space in check-in, creating a sort of mini walled city out of luggage whilst sleeping on the floor. This might be acceptable during an eight hour stopover in Accra but it seems a little unnecessary having just been dropped off by parents at Stansted. Once aboard the plane you get on with your traveller's checklist; talk loudly about travel experiences, go to great lengths to ignore flight attendants and safety instructions and swaddle yourself in blankets to illustrate warm climes being your natural environment.

Travelling seems to bring about the desire to sport badges of honour. Much better to get yourself tattooed with a crusty stick in a festering sewer in Vientiane, and if it isn’t Lao for twat it might as well be because that is how I’ll read it when you get back to sign on. Maybe it’s just more exciting getting it done on your travels in much the same way that the fun never ends when contracting HIV or hepatitis C abroad as opposed to back in Blighty. Très exotique!

I’m not suggesting that you are the worst of our exports, a trip to the Spanish Costas will soon find you amongst many Brits of whom we should be all be ashamed - the ignorati. Quite often these are the same folks who bemoan immigrants, the ghettos they create and their failure/refusal to learn the language and integrate. No obvious parallels.

You are infinitely preferable to the ignorati but puzzling nonetheless. Why are you always adorned with string? Wrists, ankles, neck, string everywhere. Is it to signify your individuality or to help me identify you and thus give you a wide berth. Maybe my resentment stems from the acknowledgement of a long faded youth but lets not stop sneering and sniping at each other, I enjoy it and you’re positively dripping with superiority.

Tim McB

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