Homo touristicus

The other day I was trying to organise my travel and, seeing as I don’t have many options – I neither drive, nor have friends (yet) to travel with, nor would I go alone, – I went to a travel agency to ask if I could join a tour. I was received by an extremely cheerful and friendly lady, who claimed to have travelled through almost all my desired destinations. She referred to them as cool, wonderful, beautiful and, most importantly, popular, but all those adjectives threw me off a bit. The lady’s excitement (presumably, genuine) affected mine poorly, so the more positive adjectives I heard, the further down I sank in my chair. By the end of the conversation, it must have looked as though she was forcing me to go and have fun. I was, indeed, reluctant to join the tour I was presented with: although its outline did include some of my preferences and was not that expensive, the estimated group size was 40 to 50 people. Of course, I was assured, all of them would be my fellow students from the university, more or less the same age, you will have so much fun! Every tour (and this was no exception) was accompanied by pictures of jumping people – by the coach, from a plane, on the rocks and so on. The more I looked at them, the more constrained their smiles and poses seemed and the less “fun” I saw in the entire affair.

After this unsatisfying visit, I calmed down and started to look for a more suitable alternative on the Internet. I had more success in terms of finding exciting itineraries but the prices were way out of my student budget. I also stumbled upon thousand travel blogs (which I generally try to avoid despite writing something suspiciously similar to one) and guides. The latter described every city in the same positive adjectives the travel agent had used but attractions were advertised in a slightly more appealing way. One of them, though, contained a phrase I can’t get out of my head: It referred to a sculpture as, I quote, “Instagram-worthy”. To me, it embodies everything I gathered from the travel agency, from students who travelled here, in New Zealand, and from most of the tours offered. People don’t travel for travelling anymore – they travel because they want to show it to other people; not to share stories or experiences but to show off. They visit places for the pictures they will later post on the Internet, not for their own pleasure. Everyone is driving to the same spot to take the very same photograph millions of others had taken before. This is sad and I despise this kind of travel.

Centuries of history, millions of years of evolution, and wonders of nature are not there because they are Instagram-worthy. They are not there to be sold or shown off. They are marks and milestones that change your perception, shape your view of the world, give you the opportunity to discover the “you” you never knew about. These places should be discovered, too, whereas some people see them exclusively through their cameras’ lenses leaning out of a coach.

Unfortunately, most discoveries require a crew, a team or just a friend.

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