A Trichotomy of Tourism: The Crazy
Russell Degnan

What do you mean, 'I've left this a long time', it's only been 14 months! Previous edition here.

Venturesome and disdainful, with heavy boots and a tendency to appear anywhere.

If the dumb tourist can be expected at the world's most famous spot, then the insane tourist can be depended on not to be -- except in disguise. When the Lonely Planet describes something as "a must-see destination" the crazy tourist reads it as "over-crowded, over-rated and commercialised". Not that you would ever see them with a Lonely Planet.

If they did have a guidebook, it would be a Baedeker from 1837. If they deigned to bother with a map of Rome, it would pre-date Sixtus V's urban renewal program. Accomodation is only necessary when it rains or snows, as they prefer the side of roads, railway stations and the comfortable homes of random strangers.

Because for the crazy tourist, everything is an adventure, and anything that isn't has leached the fun out of it. If they do arrive in a hostel -- always prepared with an excuse for preferring such luxuries -- they are easy to spot. Their boots will be rugged, and their stories equally so. The crazy tourist never arrives anywhere by such traditional commodes as a train, or bus, and if they do they never admit it. They have always hitch-hiked in the back of a van with Columbian drug-runners, ridden their bike two thousand miles, swum the North Sea, walked through rivers, climbed over passes, rowed down creeks, or otherwise tried to risk life or limb.

For some reason they are more often German, but Americans are prevalent too -- desperate to be seen as anything but dumb. No matter who they are, their brief stays in more comfortable surroundings brings out their social side. The crazy tourist will have learnt everything on their travels, and wants to tell you. Wants to help you. Because you have missed the point of travel, by staying where other people stay, and seeing things other people see.

Each of them a born story-teller. Yet, like Don Quixote, they seem to have imbibed too many heroic tales, and rush to replicate them whenever they can. The travelling experience they get is as fake as any other, but what a narrative! Every day is a tale of triumph and woe, as they pull the strings on the puppet show of their life to act out the play they wish it was. Each foray into the world inhabited by the lost tourist leaves behind a string of bards, each beginning their tale with "I met this guy in..."

And yet -- also like Don Quixote -- the crazy tourist wants to inhabit a world that no longer exists. Although they aren't blind to globalisation, they seek to reject it. They don't want to see the rest of the world as like their own country -- full of office-workers and chain stores -- so they dig under the skin of every place, complaining when they can't make it bleed, and always moving to somewhere where they can. Eastern Europe was a god-send for a while, but eventually it too will go, sending the crazy tourist back to either nature or the third world.

Nevertheless, the ephemeral impression they leave on others they meet on their travels has left one thing changed. The people that heard their crazy stories got jealous of the adventure, if not the pain of finding it. And so was birthed adventure holidays: crazy tourism for the dumb and lost. Unless they've sold out to run it, you won't find the true crazies there though.

[1] And it is always a guy.

Days Spent Away 7th February, 2006 21:29:35   [#]