In recent decades, we have come to think of new technologies as something that can protect us from inevitable patterns. Through the magic of modern machines, we hope to rid the world of banality—free of those tree sparrows, starlings, and blue jays—and fill it with rare Sutton’s warblers, ivory-billed woodpeckers, whooping cranes, and rufous hummingbirds. world.
Every birder knows how uncomfortable it is to accept that common birds are the most common and rare birds are rare. Today, the daily expectation to experience the exotic (without losing its flavor) and have the banal disappear completely is a source of frustration for all of us.
The word “adventure” has become the most tasteless and hollow word in the language. The cheap coffee shop on the corner offers “delicious adventures.” Weeks of self-improvement courses will turn our daily conversations into “big adventures.” Riding in the new Dodge is “an adventure.”
Nothing exemplifies our newly developed excess of expectations like the changing perception of travel. When people could still make choices, one of the oldest motivations for traveling was to see new things. People have an incurable longing to be somewhere different. This demonstrates his hopeless optimism and insatiable curiosity. We always think things will be different in another place.
“Travel,” Descartes wrote in the 17th century, “is almost a conversation with people who lived in other centuries.” People who travel because of hunger, fear, or oppression hope that new places will be safer, better to eat, and better to eat. More freedom. People who live in safe, affluent, and decent societies travel to escape boredom, escape the familiar, and discover exotic places.
People in the past always succeeded. Big shakes of the mind always happen after a good period of travel. Throughout history, traveling to distant places and witnessing extraordinary events have stimulated the imagination of travelers. The wonder and joy they felt made them realize that life back home had no reason to remain the same.
They discovered that there was more than one way to solve problems, that everything in heaven and earth was richer than their philosophy had dreamed of, that the possibilities of life were not yet exhausted on the streets of mediocrity.
In the 15th century, the discovery of America, the voyage around Africa, and the journey to India opened people’s eyes, broadened their minds, and gave rise to the Renaissance. In the 17th century, travel around Europe, America and the East exposed people to a different way of life, triggering the Enlightenment. Discovering new worlds always revolutionizes people’s thinking. Travel is a one-size-fits-all catalyst. It makes people think faster, imagine bolder, and create more passionate desires.
However, the experience of travel itself transforms. Many Americans now “travel,” but the word’s meaning no longer resembles its ancient meaning. The multiplication, improvement and cheapening of travel facilities has made it possible for more people to reach distant places. But the experience of going to a foreign place, the experience of being there, and the experience of bringing back from there are all very different. Experience is diluted, faked, prefabricated.
Shortly after the mid-19th century, as the iconographic revolution began, the character of travel abroad—first by Europeans, then by Americans—changed. This change reaches its climax in our time. Before this, traveling required a long time of planning, was extremely expensive, and took a long time. Travel can be health-threatening and even life-threatening. The traveler was once active, now he has become passive. Travel is no longer a physical exercise but a spectator sport.
This change can be described in one word. It’s the fall of the traveler and the rise of the tourist. These words have wonderful accuracy, but few realize it.
The Old English noun travel (in the sense of traveling) was originally the same word as travail (meaning “problem”, “labor” or “torture”). The word travail should have been transformed from trepalium in popular Latin or Romance languages through French as an intermediary. It refers to a three-legged torture instrument. Going on a trip – to travail, or (later) to travel – was then an exhausting and cumbersome experience. A traveler is an active and busy person.
In the early 19th century, a new word entered the English language that gave us a glimpse into how the world of travel had changed, especially in the eyes of Americans. The word is tourist – there was a connector in the middle at first, so it was written tour-ist.
Our American dictionary now defines a tourist as “a person who travels for pleasure” or “a person who travels, especially for enjoyment.” Another important point is that the word “tour” in the word “tourist” comes from the Latin word tornus using reverse word formation, and this Latin word comes from the Greek and refers to a tool for drawing circles. In this way, a traveler is engaged in some kind of work; a modern tourist is someone looking for fun.
The traveler is active; he goes out of his way to find people, adventure, and experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He went “sightseeing” (the word sightseeing also appeared at the same time, the first written record is in 1847). He expects everything to be taken care of and served for him.
Assembly line travel, ironclad insurance
Traveling abroad is no longer an activity—an experience, a mission—but a commodity. The rise of tourists started out as a possibility and later became inevitable as attractive travel projects were packaged and sold as packages.
By purchasing a trip, you force another person to ensure that interesting and enjoyable things happen to you. It can be wholesale (a month or week-long trip, or an in-depth tour of a certain country), or retail (a day trip, or just a visit to a foreign capital).
The reasons for all this are so familiar to us that they need to be mentioned again here. First, the most obvious reason is the advancement of transportation. In the second half of the 19th century, railroads and ocean ships truly made travel comfortable, with discomfort and risks suddenly reduced. For the first time in history, long-distance transport could be produced industrially on a large scale, sold to many people, and very cheaply.
The huge transoceanic ships could not be filled by diplomats, people on official business or people like Henry Adams who wanted to improve their education. The consumer base must be expanded to include the middle class who go on vacation, and at least the upper middle class. Traveling abroad was democratized.
The obvious next step is to “tour with a group.” A well-planned group outing can attract even the shy ones who prefer to stay at home. Of course, guided tours are ancient: the Crusades sometimes resembled them. We can see in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” that in the late 14th century, the learned and generous owner of Tarbad Tavern proposed:
In order to make everyone more interested I am willing to take the initiative to
travel with you. I will pay for my own travel expenses and be your guide…
But after that, few guides provide services for free, and the guided tour itself has become a commodity. Adventures are packaged and sold as packages to ensure there is no risk during consumption.
The real pioneer in creating and popularizing package tours was, of course, Thomas Cook. He began arranging special fare train tours within Britain in the early 1840s. The first group tour he planned took nearly 600 people from Leicester to Loughborough, a distance of 18 kilometers, at a very low cost – the discounted round-trip third-class fare was only one shilling per person.
He quickly developed a host of amenities: courteous and knowledgeable guides, hotel discount coupons, room reservation services, protection against illness and theft, and advice.
Sophisticated Englishmen resist this. Cook, they said, was robbing travelers of their drive and adventure, filling the continent’s landscape with an uncultured middle class. “Going by train,” complained John Ruskin, “doesn’t seem to me to be traveling at all; it’s just being ‘delivered’ to a place, no more than a parcel of goods.” Cook defended his service
. Call these trips “a means of furthering human progress.” He said attacks on the tours were mere pretense and that these critics were old haters.
”How foolish to think that rare and interesting places should not be enjoyed by ordinary people, but should only serve the interests of ‘selected’ members of society. But in this progressive age, any more privileged nonsense is so out of place, God It is for the people that the earth is made so full and beautiful; railways and steamships are the products of the discriminating brilliance of science, and they exist for the people… The best people, the noblest ideas, see the people follow Their steps, taking in the pleasures they had experienced, could only jump with joy.”
By the mid-20th century, traveling abroad had become big business. It is the most prominent feature of American living standards and an important part of our cultural and financial relationships with the rest of the world.
Traveling abroad is now, of course, a commodity. Just like any other mass-produced item, it can be purchased at wholesale prices and can also be paid in installments. In the early 19th century, when Charles Sumner of Boston borrowed money to travel to Europe from a few old friends who believed he would have a promising future, it was considered a remarkable and bizarre event. Nowadays, more and more travelers are traveling without affording travel expenses. “Go now and pay later.” Your travel agency arranged it for you.
When travel is no longer tailor-made, but an assembly line product that can be purchased in stores, we don’t have so much to say about its content. We are also increasingly unclear about what we are buying. We purchased several days of vacation enjoyment without even knowing what was included in the package.
A good travel package must include insurance. In this sense, the dangers of travel are a thing of the past; safety and peace of mind are directly included in the packages we buy. Others helped us take all the risks.
In 1954, the suspense film “The End of the World” depicted a luxury airliner’s troubled flight from San Francisco to Honolulu. An assortment of vacationers on board jet to the Central Pacific for a relaxing week or two. After the engine stalled, the passengers began to suffer a nervous breakdown. Finally, in order to prevent the plane from crashing, the captain asked to throw the luggage down.
I saw this movie in a theater in the suburbs of Chicago. Sitting next to me is a mother and her son, the child is still very young. He didn’t seem too concerned about the life-or-death crisis facing his passengers, but as the steward tossed the passengers’ elegant carry-on luggage into the sea—luxury suitcases, hat boxes, portable typewriters, golf clubs, tennis rackets— The boy started to get restless. “What are they going to do?” the boy shouted. “Don’t worry,” his mother reassured him, “it’s all insured.”
When a traveler’s risk is covered by insurance, he becomes a tourist.
I traveled, but it seems I didn’t travel
Once upon a time, travelers traveled to meet locals. Now, one of the functions of travel agencies is to avoid such contact. They always find new and efficient ways to isolate the visitor from the world he travels to.
In the travel notes of travelers of the old days, local innkeepers who were full of witty remarks and full of local legends were often interesting characters. Now he is obsolete. Today, you can arrange food, accommodation and entertainment in Rome, Sydney, Singapore or Tokyo from the main street of your hometown.
Shopping, like tipping, is one of the few things tourists can still do. It was a small crack in the wall of prearranged arrangements that separated him from the country he was visiting. He will naturally find shopping exciting and fun.
When shopping, he can actually meet locals, negotiate prices in their unfamiliar language, and discover local business rules. Simply put, he tasted the excitement and “torture” that travelers in the past had experienced all the time – when every transportation service, every night’s accommodation, and every meal required personal attention.
The traveler has never been so isolated from the places he visits. The newest and most popular form of transportation to a foreign location is also the most complete way known to isolate visitors from their environment.
Recently, I took a flight at Idlewild Airport in New York. My boarding time was at 6:30 pm, and I arrived in Amsterdam at 11:30 am the next day. I was on a regular flight, flying at an altitude of 7,000 meters, far above the clouds. It was too high to see any landmarks or beacons. Nothing could be seen except weather phenomena; and since there were no weather phenomena that day, there was nothing to see. What I leapt through was not space, but time.
The only personal sign that I had traveled such a long distance was the six-hour time difference. My only problem on the way was killing time. I moved through space so effortlessly, so inconspicuously. The plane took the view away from me.
Tourists arrive at a place without any experience of the journey. To him, it was the same everywhere: going here or going there, it was the same.
For a long time, the feeling of going somewhere was inseparable from the feeling of being there. Now, “half the fun is getting there.” “Rome,” announced British Transocean Airways, “is a fun stop.” Nothing is more uniform than fun, no matter where you are.
Now, we also have many projects on the road. American Steamship Company’s advertisement said:
You are only fifteen meals away from Europe on the fastest cruise ship in the world. Caviar from Iran, pheasant from Scotland…you can choose from global delicacies, enriching the wonderful experience on board. The ship has a swimming pool, gym, two cinemas, and three Mel Davis orchestras. Offering you a five-day adventure to discover the lost art of leisure.
The experience was erased while traveling to the local area. Everything we experienced on the way was transformed into luxurious enjoyment. Better than at home.
For Americans pushing westward in the 19th century, the way they lived together on the road shaped their lives after arrival, just like the legend of Moses leading the children of Israel through the wilderness, out of Egypt, and into the Promised Land A forty-year journey that shaped them as a nation. Americans heading west organized themselves to fight the dangers along the way, developing charters and rules in the process that allowed them to form new communities once they arrived.
Nowadays, those who embark on a journey take so few risks and experience so little that the experience of arriving somewhere is somehow becoming increasingly hollow and trivial. The more hardships you experience on the journey, the more vivid your feelings will be when you arrive. When the journey becomes “fun”, arriving at the destination is no different from arriving at other places.
The tourist who arrives at his destination enjoys “improved” tourist facilities and is almost as isolated as he is on the road. Today, the ideal tourist hotel abroad is the same as the best hotel at home. The beds, lighting, ventilation, air conditioning, central heating, and sewerage are all American, but of course smart hotel managers will make special efforts to retain a certain “local atmosphere.”
Have you reached the distance, or do you only see yourself?
In those not-so-distant times, few concepts were simpler and easier to understand than embarking on a journey. Travel—movement through space—is a universal metaphor for change. When someone dies, he begins a journey from which no one has ever returned. Or, as the cliche goes, a person is “on the road” when he dies.
Philosophers have observed that we rely on the solidity of space to escape the mystery of time. For example, Bergson once argued that the measurement of time must be expressed through the metaphor of space: whether time is “long” or “short”; whether another epoch is “distant” or “near”.
Getting from one place to another is getting faster and faster, and time itself is degenerating into a measure of space.
We call our era the “Space Age,” but space means less to us than ever before. Perhaps we should call this era the “spaceless era.” The planet has lost the art of travel, all space on earth has become homogeneous, and we seek refuge in the homogeneity (or the promise of diversity) of space.
Foreign countries, like celebrities, become confirmations of pseudo-events. Much of our interest comes from our curiosity about whether our own impressions are the same as those in the newspapers, movies, and television. Is the Trevi Fountain in Rome really like in the movie “From Rome”? Is Hong Kong really like in “Life and Death”? Is Hong Kong full of people like Susie Wong? We go there not to test images against reality, but to test reality against images.
We go more and more to places we expect to go. We were promised we would see what we expected to see or our money back. Anyway, we travel more and more, not to see anything but to take pictures.
Like our other experiences, travel becomes a tautology.
The harder and more consciously we work to expand our experience, the more ubiquitous this tautology becomes. Whether we are looking for great role models or experiences far away, we are looking in the mirror instead of the window, so all we can see is ourselves.