Outdoors Magazine

Shit I Hate About Travelers

By Everywhereonce @BWandering

As a traveler and, I guess, as a travel blogger I’m probably supposed to think that not only is travel awesome but that other travelers are awesome too. Mostly, I do. And yet there’s a surprisingly long list of things that I really dislike about many travelers – like when they pretend that they’re better than “tourists;” or when they talk about “the locals” as if they’re not people but just another attraction; or when they confuse rural with “real;” or use the word “authentic” like it means something. Those things are all modestly irksome.

But the thing I really detest is when travelers treat poverty and hardship as if it is something that needs to be preserved so that the rich can surround themselves with it on vacation.

And if you think that doesn’t happen all you need to do is read through some of the tweets people unleashed after the U.S. announced it will normalize relations with Cuba.

Cuba Tweet 3
Cuba Tweet 1
Cuba Tweet 2

I’ve never been to Cuba; as an American, I’m not legally allowed to travel there. But the idea that we should lament the opening of this island prison and maintain the horrendous policies that have kept its people frozen in time so that the more comfortable among us can go and gawk at their circumstances is a thought too awful to contemplate. And yet there it is, splashed repeatedly and unashamedly on Twitter as if it’s the most natural thing ever.

Now I’m sure the people who authored these tweets will object. They didn’t explicitly say they wanted to keep the Cuban people impoverished. They just want to keep Cuba like it is now, which just happens to be impoverished.

And that’s the heart of what I hate about these kinds of sentiments. You can’t maintain the “charm” of Cuba without also preserving its poverty and isolation. There is really no way to separate the two.

As soon as the Cuban people achieve some level of wealth and the ability to trade freely, they’ll start repairing that crumbling colonial architecture and replacing their 1950s automobiles. Hell, they might even want to eat a Big Mac every now and again. And who are we to say that they shouldn’t have that right?

Are travelers really that self absorbed to think that their desire to see things trumps a people’s desire to improve their lives?

Probably not. I’m guessing that most folks haven’t really thought through the implications of comments like the ones tweeted above. For many people travel isn’t about engaging in the real world, it’s something that’s done as an escape; kind of like going to Disneyland. Only the characters you meet in places like Cuba don’t leave the stage when the traveler goes home to his comfortable life. They stay behind toiling in the “authentic” conditions some folks like to see but probably wouldn’t choose for themselves. 

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