On a random tangent I recently read another travel blog that listed the heinous crimes of the “tourons” (AKA travel morons as the blogger rather dismissively termed them)
This listed such horrors as
1) consulting a guide book and not deviating from it,
2) not eating the local / authentic food and
3) Having a “hit list” of things to see instead of discovering the off the beaten track, not in the guide book, only find it if you live with a local for 6 months, knit your own jumper from a Peruvian yak and walk barefoot for 20 miles, sort of trip highlight.
Now my own opinion is a little different (as anyone who has ever read the blog can testify)
1) Guide books do what they say on the tin – they GUIDE you, there is no shame in deferring to the experts and making the very most of your time and money when visiting a country that you have never seen before.
If, once you have visited the highlights, you then want to go AWOL and find out more then you can, but, if you have seen / ticked off the big hitters you won’t then have to experience the ultimate frustration of returning home without seeing half of the things that made your country seem like such a great choice in the first instance.
EG “Did you see the Taj Mahal” – Sigh “No it was too touristy and in all the guide books so I decided not to be a sheep, I went and watched a man build a tower out of cow poo and his own leg hair”
“How about a rickshaw ride round Old Delhi?” “Yawn, there are too many people who have showered recently wearing branded rucksacks – far too many tourists so I skipped it and gazed at my own navel instead.”
2) Food – AKA the “authentic” fodder versus the places guide books tell you are nice (horror of horrors).
Right then – it’s ok to take a week or two out of a year long, parentally funded world trip with debilitating stomach cramps and projectile poo in order to experience the “authentic” street cuisine of the host country.
Not such a smart move if, like me, you are one of the many millions of normal folk who can only have two or, if really lucky, three weeks holiday off at a time from our jobs and do not really have the time, inclination or most importantly money, to waste a third of the said holiday seeing nothing but the inside of your hotel toilet.
3) Getting off the beaten track for undiscovered sights and sounds.
If you take a ten or 15 hour plane trip to the other side of the world, costing you a considerable portion of your income only to waste a significant portion of your all too brief encounter wandering the back alleys of a new city in search of “off the beaten track” sights several things are liable to happen:
You get mugged / ripped off/ laughed at
You waste a day only to find a really shabby / crappy but hitherto undiscovered “gem” (tip – it’s off the beaten track cos no one wants to see it . . )
Or you might find something so amazingly mind blowingly great that you then want to tell everyone else and get it on the tourist map, but then horror of horrors, other people might see it, it’s not off the beaten track and here come the tourons . .! Ooooooh catch 22!!!
I am totally a tourist, I admit it, I’m not a traveller (whatever that entails) I enjoy my hotel rooms with running water (preferably hot and cold) as few cockroaches / local bugs as possible and clean sheets.
I am past the backpacking stage, the sharing a dorm with dreadlocked students who really need to reacquaint themselves with soap, people who find words like “employment”, “recessions” and “mortgage” boring and irrelevant to them. In short people who think real life is just for boring old losers, not them.
I don’t see any one way of travelling as better than another, in my view however you experience a country is valid. You are still experiencing it.
Whether that is for two years or two weeks, whether it is a coach trip or a camper van, whether it is a guided tour or off the beaten track.
The fact that you have got off your backside and seen something different means that your world view is changed forever. And ultimately that, for me, is the most important thing.