Monday, September 10, 2007

The Joys of Travel

Industrial tourism - more distance, less difference

"Journeys, those magic caskets full of dreamlike promises, will never again yield up their treasures untarnished...the first thing we see as we travel around the world is our own filth, thrown into the face of mankind" - Claude Levi-Strauss (1974)

It cannot be denied that tourism and travel issues are at the heart of a huge amount of environmental destruction, and that increased travel and communications have caused a drastic reduction in cultural diversity . However, it must be noted that the human species possesses strong nomadic tendencies, and for this reason it has dispersed itself across the entire planet . Indeed, such tendencies have at one time or another been essential to survival; it is therefore perhaps improper to condemn "travel" or "tourism" outright; rather we must examine what these two words have come to mean, whilst also trying to define what we mean by "sustainable travel" (bearing in mind that such phrases are very much abused by those who stand to gain from the current socio-economic model)

As campaigners, we must look to a situation where "Progress" won't necessitate yet another runway, motorway, or other mal-development mobility scheme. To do this, we need to understand what processes make us want to travel .

In the words of one activist: "To me, outside the normal network of paths I follow to work, live and sleep, I want to travel further in order to see, understand and learn about something different which I could not fully encounter at home. This process enables me to relate what I have experienced at home with what goes on outside those boundaries, so that I may return with new insights and with the hindsight of seeing home from far away; from a broader perspective or context."

If we accept that it is in our very nature to roam, it may well be that people have a need to go on what might be called a "pilgrimage" to places other than their home at least a few times in their life. But this must be done in a way that does not advance monoculture . Wherever we are travelling, it is the way we travel and the relationships that are formed with the people we meet along the way which will determine whether the net disturbance we cause is positive or negative. It should at best leave the people we have visited with a sense of pride, satisfaction and empathy; that someone came and visited from afar, lived alongside them, sang and spoke in their language and helped them in the fields; someone who thought that their way of life was different but equal to their own .

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