| the new ideals of "travelling"

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

That is, in the eyes of today’s ever wealthier and homogeneous society. It’s now impossible to peruse any Facebook or Instagram feed without coming across someone on their travels, posing on a mountain or by an elephant in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia. Normally captioned by something along the lines of “Never want to leave <3” or “Best experience of my life”, clearly these people are experiencing it all, wandering by a pretty waterfall, getting the perfect shot for Instagram and then retreating back to the comfort of their hostel or hotel to use the WiFi.

In this age, the most exciting places to go "travelling" are believed to be the most exotic and wildly different environments to those of our comfy and technology-driven lives back home. It gives us the feeling of being “cultured” and “aware” of the ways of lives for countries considered less developed than Europe and the United States. However, I cannot agree that visiting all the tourist hot spots of a country really enriches us, where typically the richer people reside and the not so pleasant aspects are hidden away. In this way, you’re not experiencing all sections of a society, seeing how the less privileged live, how the people are ruled or how much freedom they might have.

Laos, for example, is a communist state which still carries out capital punishment and tortures its prisoners, but why should tourists know this? At least they’ve relaxed on the beach and taken a boat ride at sunset. Their people have no religious freedom, with Buddhism being the national religion, and the state controls all press and media outlets. But again, learning about the country’s way of life and country need not go further than the basics; tourists do wish to enjoy their travelling experience after all.

By visiting countries like this, we get the feeling of being “other-worldly” after seeing an exotic-looking temple, but we are simply scratching the surface. Of course, there are those who volunteer and go out to Cambodia in order to make a difference for other people, and through this you will see the harsh realities of economic and political hardship. These kinds of people, however, are rare. It is more likely that those who go travelling to “find themselves” or to “see the world” are choosing to see what they want to see, rather than the reality of undemocratic states, unequal societies and political repression. Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos may have the scenery and landscape that make it appear a paradise compared to the less interesting fields and motorways of Britain, but it is the people that make a country what it is.

Travelling is not solely about the nice pictures you take, which you can edit for your Instagram. It’s about seeing the environment as it is, no matter how unpleasant. It’s about connecting with the people, their culture and traditions and most importantly, respecting them. We must have empathy, to look past the hotspots and dig deeper.

Do you agree? Have you been travelling?

Thanks for reading!

The traffic jam of life

1 comment

  1. Interesting perspective - totally agree about the people. I'm going to Vietnam on Wednesday and looking forward to learning more about their culture and what makes it Vietnam - such fascinating / interesting / eye opening history too! - Sarah


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