Seen That, Been There, Done That

On the National Day of the People's Republic of China, tourists from the country and overseas came to Badaling Great Wall to celebrate.(Xinhua)

In our age of excess and exposure, lower flight costs, package tourism and organized tour groups, the list of undiscovered, obscure or adventurous destinations is dwindling. No longer are we fascinated by expeditions to the arctic, if we can afford the hefty sum we can join a neon orange thermal suit clad troop of fellow adventurers, so many climbers are attempting Everest now that people are dying just waiting in line for access to the ladder, beaches that were once whispered secrets among locals, known for their serenity and solitude have now become frequent stops for booze cruisers, with all day happy hours and salacious locals. Now those wishing to pursue the off the beaten track destinations are presented with new challenges, either having to resort to venturing somewhere with mildly less tourists, maybe since it doesn’t offer ease of passage, going somewhere that perhaps has no particular draw for tourists, a common village that bodes no sightseeing attraction or travel somewhere that is considered too dangerous for the common traveler.
I can understand the attraction to package tourism, and have fallen victim to it several times, it’s convenient, reasonably priced, you feel like you’re getting all the bases covered, but in the end you feel a little cheated, as if you’ve had a short-changed experience, and not just by all the hawkers with their cheap trinkets and the exponentially priced water, but as if you’re not really getting to know the place you are in, only a filtered, for foreigners version, and it’s a lot harder to escape the bubble when you’re limiting your interaction with locals. Perhaps these are the laments of a jaded traveler, who, despite its convenience, prefers not to travel with a Lonely Planet in tote, and having grown up with stories of Mallory and Shackleton, reading Heart of Darkness and One Hundred Years of Solitude, liked to imagine there was an unadulterated land to be discovered. And ultimately I shouldn’t complain, because considering if I lived during these times of  the ‘real’ adventurers, I no doubt would not have had an opportunity to travel like I do, unless I were to become a missionary, or want to subject myself to an extremely uncomfortable, disease ridden voyage. Now, instead of just looking at picture books of wonders of world and dreaming of the unattainable mysteries the world had to offer, I now have the opportunity, with several months of scrimping and saving, taking a teaching job abroad or various other methods available to me, to see these sights in real life, something that was unimaginable in my parents generation. I live in the age of convince and accessibility, and have to accept that there may be others who share my same passion for exploring the world, and perhaps I should be grateful, there’s no better way to bond with new friends than in sharing travel stories, and maybe there’s hope for a western society that is largely viewed as ignorant as we are entering a burgeoning global playing field.  So, although it can be frustrating at times, trekking a well-beaten path with hordes of foreigners, or encountering a mass of out-of-town drunkards who smear the Wests already tarnished image, there are also the travelers who provide you with valuable inside tips, who offer a helping hand when you are failing to communicate that the guy who just ran out of the bar and left you with the tab was not actually with you or provide some much-needed company when you felt like your starting to lose you mother tongue and  might just talk in simplified phrases from now on, the world is becoming a smaller place and with that, hopefully will come more understanding and tolerance, and there’s always plenty of Vino, Cervaza, Ouzo, Pisco, Soju, Sake, Rakia, ect. to go around.

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