Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Art of Travel, continued

This post at Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog on the ethics of slumming (and Coates's subsequent admission that he would stay at an all-inclusive resort, which, hello, of course you would---who among us is too self righteous to appreciate the ultimate lazy vacation, in which no financial decisions or coordination problems interfere with your pina colada consumption and complete sloth? but I digress) made me reflect on my philosophy of travel. I've not taken a vacation in a while and am contemplating a solo trip to Namibia or Cambodia (although a friend went to Sao Tome some time ago and it looked awesome).

However, in the course of a recent conversation I reiterated my position on travel, which is that I don't interact with people while I'm there. I see things, and places, and art, and history. I travel to rationalize the sense of alienation and dislocation I feel on a day-to-day basis and throw it into sharp relief, not to make friends. But is this somehow even more insulting than poverty tourism (although it's equal-opportunity; I am just as aloof in rich countries as in poorer ones)? It's not that I look down on people I meet; it's that the stress of trying to connect with them interferes with my engagement of whatever relaxing and cool thing I came there to do. Trouble is, I am running out of destinations where there is stuff that I already am interested in. Future destinations are going to involve me learning to appreciate new stuff, and that's hard to do with minimal social interaction.
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