The Thing About Traveling Part 2
Note I recently penned another article on a similar issue. This presents a counter to the first piece.
If you've heard the hype about a place, there's gonna be people there who are just trying to make money off you. We in Perth are fully aware of this phenomenon thanks to the Bali experience. An island paradise once celebrated for it's simplicity, it is now one of our regions greatest monuments to consumerism. During my stay in America I've discovered this isn't restricted to cash strapped regions.
As I moved through New Orleans it became apparent that the world famous parts of old, are completely indistinguishable from what they once were. Bars famous for jazz pianists dueling now hear pop cover songs played off the keys as the patrons consume copious amounts of alcohol. Bourbon street is far more likely to sound like novas top 50 then the world famous street of jazz it is recognised as.
Los Angeles is equally devoid of the kind of thing it's famous for. Many come here to visit a city that was once renowned for being one of the worlds most glamorous and creative, but are disappointed by its complete shallowness. Indeed you walk down Hollywood boulevard and you find yourself confronted by homeless men and women in superhero costumes, performing for tips, whilst thousands of others just like you tramp over the stars dedicated to film industry greats.
Go to Disney world and your assured constantly you're in the happiest place in the world by the staff and loud speakers. Waiting in lines for hours to go on a 60 second ride is the best this life can offer, apparently.
As for Las Vegas, it can hardly be abused as representing a lie, for indeed what is the city designed to be if not a soulless playground.
Now that's not to say these places are bad. There's lots of fun to be had in gimmicks, that's why they are so popular, and prevalent. Although the word carries a negative connotation, that's more related to our want to be seen as above such schemes, rather than any heated dislike for gimmicks themselves.
The proof is in the pudding. America's most popular destinations are shamelessly catered to provide entertainment, cheap food, clothes and site specific merchandise. If you go to bourbon street for Jazz, you'll be disappointed in that respect, but you will likely still enjoy yourself in it's uninhibited party scene.
If you want to experience real America, there's nothing stopping you. But will you have as much fun as when you are in a tourist playground? The sad reality is that although we might think we want to expand our horizons, experience foreign culture and revel in the different, we spend the large majority of our travel time and money in tourist havens that are unmistakably the antithesis of what we like to think travel is about. It's easy to recognise that if people ate Indonesian food when they went to Bali, there wouldn't be so many Western chain restaraunts.
Some economists would argue that we live in a producer sovereign society. That meaning it is the producer who dictates where demand will go. However, it's not a widely held belief and most agree that although the producer is important and does influence decisions, it is the consumer who is ultimately sovereign. Thus, travel is as it is because of us.
That we do not fully immerse ourselves in the foreign lands that we go to isn't wildly surprising. Humans have always been afraid of the other. Different cultures are fun, but if not tempered with safety of the norm they can be extremely daunting and counteract any excitement you'd otherwise have.
In short, what's the point of rebelling against what tourism has largely become if we partake in the system all the same and without shame? Rather than joke about how fake the places we travel to are, perhaps we should recognise that the falsehood exists within ourselves.