Why I’m giving tourist attractions the proverbial finger
G.K Chesterton was certainly onto something when quoting “The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see”. If I was to borrow a personal travel mantra, this would be it. Something I feel quite passionately about is the freedom to travel in any way that we wish. So often I find myself in conversation in which someone is telling me I HAVE to see this church or museum or lookout point, like my travel loses all validity unless I follow the same footsteps as every tourist before me. This attraction could have god himself sitting there, but unless that is of some interest to me personally – there is absolutely no reason use precious travel time ticking an attraction box. If I was to create my own personal travel mantra it would be “F*&k tourist attractions”.
This change in mindset has come from many years on the road reflecting and growing my methods of travel. Fresh on to the circuit, I would carry Lonely Planet’s guide like a bible and rather monotonously tick off the designated ‘attractions’ of the city I was in. Too afraid to admit that I had come to a city and not seen <insert name> Church, I would drag myself past what is of interest to me to make sure I had an array of photos (or evidence if you will) to show that I had in fact attended all the attractions that are expected of me. Did I enjoy them? Not particularly. But travel often felt like a competition in which the more ‘attractions’ you saw, the worldlier of traveler you were perceived to be.
More recently I found myself in a similar dilemma. Having almost completed the W circuit, a 5 day trek in Chile, I arrived at second last campsite in a bad way. Sprained ankle, infected toes and less than appropriate footwear meant that I had been battling uphill for 5 days in nothing short of agony and was quite frankly mentally and physically very exhausted. An additional 2 hour uphill hike would have brought me to the last campsite, in which at 5am in the morning the ritual is for everyone to pack up their sleeping bags and hike in the dark an additional 1 hour steeply uphill to watch the sunrise behind the mountains. The decision between continuing on for the sunrise which I apparently MUST see, or staying and resting at the campsite which has facilities such as showers, cooked meals and alcohol was very difficult. I had the moment of FOMO (fear of missing out) but accepted that my body could not endure any more uphill trekking and that a sunrise, did not overly appeal to me in my current mental state. While the others went on to the next campsite, I stayed behind with one other English chap who was fairly over trekking to say the least. We showered, opened a bottle of red and spent the night indoors next to the fireplace chatting and laughing with some of the most interesting people I had met on my trip to date! We watched the storm roll in, from the comfort of the refuge and could see the terrible weather that those in the campsite further north were enduring. The next day upon asking our friends whether the sunrise was worth it, they showed pictures of a very dismal experience. There was nothing remotely exceptional about this sunrise. The take home message here; you should never feel pressured to see or do something in your travels that is of no interest to you.
This message can be extrapolated into any area of life. As there is no right or wrong way to travel, there really is no right or wrong way to live. Our lives are exactly that – ours! So often we are judged or worse still are judging those around us based on the decisions they make for their life. And we have absolutely no right do so. So starting small and hopefully expanding this into all aspects of my life, I will continue to travel as I see fit. This may include what has commonly be seen before me, but may also lead me down my very own path of discovery. And as always, I challenge you do to the same!