A Tourist and a Voyager
Before railways and aeroplanes could compress time-space, and before capitalism, English and the ideas of nation-state and modernisation globalised; a premodern tourist is a voyager. I define (very narrowly) voyage as an exploration of the unknown - the truly unknown. The journey was perilous, unexpected, offensive, disrupting, and may never come to an end.
Coal, money and Internet freed individuals from their localities. For the developed world, mobility is a universal condition. The barrier to travel - in pre-COVID times - is almost zero.
Travelling now decouples from voyage. It becomes less an end, an action in itself, but a means. A means to momentarily escape from the mundane quotidian. The unknown is still desired, but happiness is the ultimate goal.
In the pursuit of happiness the unknown must therefore be tamed. All that is too extreme and dangerous must be controlled and cleansed. A zoo, not a safari. Ultimately, tourism creates a simulated reality, a dreamworld. Maximal satisfaction with no eyesore: Disneyland, Macau, Dubai, North Korea.
Bryman noticed, in the fierce competition for tourists, businesses use the tactics of 'theming', 'hybrid consumption' and 'performative labour' to differentiate themselves.
We situate in overarching themes with corresponding decoration, a unified and harmonious landscape. We grow to expect a fun place with multiple things to do. We learn to get everyone and every species to be nice to us. Attractiveness follows manipulation. Tourists run away from their censored life, only to find themselves enjoying more, yet subtler, censorship.
Tourism's paradox: the more tourists come, the less genuine a place becomes. In an extreme end, the past/nature is preserved as if it is present, yet everything - residents, structures, practices and history - is simply re-enacted, like a living dead on display.
Places - urban, rural or wilderness - are living organisms which humans, nonhuman, and nature interact and improvise. The 'invisible hand' weaves a community together. Individual actions collectively bring homeostasis.
The community has its past and future, a continuum. What we experience is simply a point on an infinite plane. Every object and relation is a consequence of history and a product of happenings near and far.
An ancient temple entails a lost power, scavengers an informal circulation of goods. Car repairing shops imply a bygone industry and low land rent, old tong laus a history of population boom and colonial laissez-faire.
A tourist in this sense is a pathogen. To travel means to intervene in the delicate biology of an organism.
A voyager in this sense assimilates. One goes with the flow, no matter ups or downs, he/she is there to take it all.
Source of Inspiration:
- Alan Bryman, ‘The Disneyization of Society’
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