Saturday, July 28, 2007


Despite trying my hardest to the contrary I must admit that I have become something of which I am not particularly proud: a travel snob. As opposed to your common or garden snob, who looks down his or her nose at people with limited means, the travel snob is an anti-snob who disdains those with too much. Actually no, that's a bit too simplistic. It would be truer to say that they scorn those who are too lazy to make the effort to discover the places they visit, to learn or adapt to their culture, mores and history and generally remain detached from their surroundings by staying in four star hotels, taking tours in air-conditioned coaches that deposit them at various attractions and whisk them back to their resorts when they're finished. They only respect people who are willing to get down and dirty and discover things for themselves. Some extreme travel snobs take it a step further and turn their noses up at anyone who visits popular on-the-beaten-track sights/countries and doesn't sleep in cockroach infested dumps. If you haven't lived with the remote tribes of Burkina Faso or trekked the peaks of Kyrgystan you just don't cut the mustard with them.

Luckily I haven't become quite like that (yet), and realise that most people can't afford to leave their home commitments for long stretches of time, and can only take one or two two-week holidays a year. That's perfectly understandable and reasonable, but doesn't necessarily preclude an attempt at understanding the places one visits. The one thing I do get particularly angry about though is people who visit national parks and areas of natural beauty and then just horse around, throw litter and make enough noise to scare all the wildlife in a 50 mile radius, completely oblivious to the damage they cause. But when visiting someplace I am determined to get the most out of it and so idly dawdling in front of shop windows and taking a couple of hours to get ready in the morning are certain ways to make me tetchy. I'm certainly not the best person to travel with because after such a long time on my own and doing as I please I've become a bit peculiar - I'm not very accommodating and am unwilling to compromise with people over how things should be done. Hopefully I'll be able to reintegrate with polite society upon my return home. Travelling has, in certain respects become a job for me (though one I love doing), and I've become determined to do it properly - getting rid of extraneous luxuries, such as sleeping in a bed and having a shower every day, or eating well (in Europe my diet on the road revolves around bread, either with cheap chocolate spread or cheap pate and tomatoes), to concentrate on the essentials of walking the streets and back alleys of towns, visiting museums, trying to talk to the locals and generally trying to soak up as much info and as many sights and sounds and tastes as possible.

1 comment:

Inihtar said...

I'm not opposed to your brand of snobbishness:) I think too many people who travel, even to developing countries, don't really end up leaving home at all, because they stay in five-star hotels or resorts, eat only Western foods, or food that they're accustomed to and don't make the effort to absorb the culture. And that gets to me too! Might as well spend a week in the nearest Marriott or Hilton.