Like a Rolling Stone

At one time, not too terribly long ago, travel was pretty much reserved for the rich. Anyone else was in steerage, below decks, below water lines, below everything remotely pleasant. These poor souls were escaping the realities of nothing, and heading for the possibilities of something. (My wife of many years was one of these.) The only other travelers were a handful of romantics. Students and bohemians that hit the road like Jack Kerouac , in search of themselves and other similar lost souls.  I think that was a better arrangement for everyone concerned. Why? Because no one likes tourists, and anyone with a modicum of self awareness doesn’t even like being a tourist.

 The modern travel industry is a plague on all humanity. It basically has taken the gentility of higher class snobbery and bashed it against the jagged rocks of dismal middle class ignorance. Far off aboriginals could grudgingly accept some upper class fop dropping a silver coin into their calloused outstretched hand for lugging a porcelain bathtub through the jungle  or over a mountain top so that his nibs could have his nightly soapy before cocktails. They could even endure the occasional tongue lashing or an unwelcome frolic with their gamesome daughter or rangy hipped spouse, knowing that it was an inevitable peasant’s risk, and with luck it could provide a stipend to help them get through the coming harsh winter. However, all of this loathsome twit behaviour has sunk beneath the backwash of the mass assault via air, sea and land.  Before, the only thing the rest of the unknown world had going for it was that there really weren’t very many of us. (The rich, arrogant, highbrow twits.) Thanks to the emergence of the packaged tour, we are now everywhere.

 What do I base my criticisms on? First, I don’t think people are made to travel great distances in short periods of time. Back in the day the royals took leisurely trips by boat, or carriage or train. These lasted months, sometimes even years. Today’s middle class traveler is ushered onto a jumbo jet or gigantic speeding cruise ship that cuts through the assure waters like a knife. Our body clocks circadian rhythms and emotional metabolisms are in constant upheaval. We’re either acting like drunks or lunatics half the vacation. Second, the whole purpose of travel has changed. Today’s traveler has one prime objective and that is above all else, do not meet anyone different than you. That’s why the boats moor to a security gated peer, or languish at anchor a safe distance from shore. This will keep meeting and greeting other cultures at a safe distance. Any excursions to land require you to cluster in tightly bunched little herds through a few market stalls where you can haggle the merchants down to lowly enough prices that it will help insure they remain impoverished. Then, as if suddenly alerted by the sharp report of a starter’s pistol, everyone flees back to the boat for snacks and a hasty departure to the next country and the next photo-op with a smiling gap toothed peasant wearing a hat thatched from a Baobab Tree’s prickly bark.  Third, don’t trust anyone, they are not our friends. Everyone is out to fleece you. (Even the people running the tour.) Lock everything you have in a safety deposit box in your room, or in a pouch fastened to your midriff at all times, even when showering or swimming. Don’t wear expensive jewellery. Bring it, but don’t wear it. Fourth, don’t eat anything that hasn’t been thoroughly washed in soapy water. If you can’t taste the soap it’s probably too late, you’ll soon be  spending the rest of your vacation sitting on the toilet or hooked up to an IV in a ghastly fetid hospital corridor with possibly  ill educated and trained medical people jabbering away in some unfathomable tongue. Fifth, don’t ever look officials directly in the eye, anyone in a uniform or carrying a gun is itching for a chance to lock you up in some rat infested dark and musty underground cell or worse, shoot you or your quaking spouse, simply because they have extra ammo and quail season is starting late this year because so many tour buses have scared them all away.   


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