This post is a really a bit of a rant; not something I do often.
However… This is an accumulation of my personal observations and conversations over many years, which has been brought to the forefront of my thoughts during a recent conversation with a ‘person’ who regularly sojourns to Portugal.
Quite simply it is about holidays or, for those of you living on the far side of the pond, vacations and my personal firmness of conviction relating to what ‘seeing a country’ means.
It is the term, ‘I have seen (Brazil)’ or ‘I have been to (Spain)’, which riles me when the person who has holidayed rarely, if ever, stepped outside their hotel complex, except to visit a local (tourist) bar, restaurant or water park.
This form of tourism insulates the holidaymaker from seeing the country and sampling the true cultural and ethnic diversity of the people.
During the conversation I referred to earlier, the person I was speaking with had flown to Portugal for seven consecutive years. On arrival, he and his family were transported to ‘the hotel’, (always the same one), where they remained for the entire two weeks on a ‘fully inclusive’ basis.
Not to say they never ventured out. The family regularly drank at three watering holes, ate in two restaurants and shopped for gifts in a nearby town.
But that was it.
They never ventured further.
Now, I am not getting on my high horse claiming what they were doing is wrong, far from it.
If this form of commercial tourisma is for you; if you want to lay by a pool soaking up the sun’s rays while staying in easy reach of the bar, that is fine and dandy. (For you).
If you have no interest in experiencing all a foreign country and alternative cultures have to offer, because you prefer your ‘home comforts’ to be on hand wherever you go, that is fine too.
I do not have a problem with people’s preferences.
I shall not say I understand or agree, but I can accept their choice.
This is not my gripe.
This is what really gets my goat… (actually, I don’t own a goat, but if I did…)
It is when someone, a tourist as mentioned, claims to be an authority on the country, the culture, the food and the people. When these same people will not accept they have little knowledge of the country in which their hotel complex is situated. When they will not acknowledge all the assumed information they have acquired is limited to the commercial fake-ness, (is that a word? Well it is now), they have been subjected to during their stay(s).
This is something which drives me close to insanity.
Because, in all honesty, it is wrong to say, ‘I have been to (Peru)’ if you have been closeted in a phoney, commercialised fantasy world and not had the conviction to venture further than the local tourist market.
That is not ‘seeing’ a city or a country; that is ‘seeing’ a hotel which just happens to be in a particular place. A place which could be anywhere in the world, because until you venture outside, the hotels and resorts are all the same. OK, the décor might change and the staff’s accents may slightly differ, but that is about all.
I for one enjoy travelling. From the moment the plane takes off, or the ship departs from the dockside, I fully immerse myself in every aspect of the journey because, for me, the ‘getting there’ is all part of the experience.
Once in my destination, often one of many, I submerse myself into the culture and the people. Over the years I have collected a slight knowledge of several languages and use what little I recall as much as possible. By the time I leave I have added a few more sentences to my tiny lexicon.
If you only have one or two words, the pure fact you are trying to speak their language is, in the majority of circumstances, most welcomed. Soon you will find you have made many friends who wish to teach you more.
A contrasting attitude to the man with whom I was holding the conversation about his regular visits to Portugal. After his several years of returning, he did not speak a single word of Portuguese. Never tried to learn a single phrase.
“Why should I” he said, because they all speak English anyway. As he was on holiday he did not want to waste his time trying to learn ‘their lingo’.
This is the same man who, at his place of work and in the local bar, professes to know everything about Portugal and is happy to force his advice on everybody and anybody who mentions they are going there.
With that said, I conclude my ranting.
I must confess, I feel better for getting it off my chest.
Thank you for reading, Paul.
© Paul White 2014
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