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Why I hate snowglobes: Travel, then and Now

- William

Travel.

Look it up in a dictionary. It’s a word with eighteen separate definitions. Here are the first two.

‘1. To go on a journey to a particular place, usually using a form of transportation.’

‘2. To go from place to place or visit various places and countries for business or pleasure.’

It took me a little while to notice that one of them is the way we should be travelling, and the other is the way that we are traveling.  What’s the difference, you might ask?

Definition one says that travel is mainly about the journey.

Definition two says that travel is mainly about the destination.

All too often, we are inclined to agree with definition two. The destination seems to be the big thing these days. Am I the only one who thinks that everyone seems to have a twitchy-eyed obsession with where they’re going? When did we forget that the journey is the destination?

Travel has come a long ways. Back in the day, travel took a long time. A long time. Weeks, months, or even years. You thought that the ten-hour plane flight you took was long? Imagine spending the entire month on a constantly rocking, putrid-smelling wooden ship filled with unbathed sailors and vermin-ridden food. Did that road trip leave you exhausted? Imagine walking there over the course of a year and a half, dragging a donkey behind you.

Back in those days, travel meant an exhaustive effort to go somewhere. Travel was the exhaustive effort. There were adventures along the way. Interesting people. Strange places. Bizarre customs. All the sorts of things we still experience in travel today. So why have many of us lost that spirit of adventure that once accompanied travel?

My theory is that the mindset of travelers has shifted. Nowadays, we all seem focused, like heat-guided missiles, on where we’re going, excluding the journeys in between destinations. That’s not to say we should all throw our reservations in the air and hop on the next train to Yugoslavia, or anything like that. My point is that I think we should try a little harder to relish the adventures we have while we’re going somewhere; just as much as the adventures we have while we are there.

But I don’t believe we’re completely at fault for this, either. Behind the scenes, there’s a huge, thriving industry that has it’s fingers firmly wrapped around travel’s throat.

Tourism.

Think about it. When you are in between traveling hotspots, tourism doesn’t get much out of you. But when you reach a destination? Suddenly, there’s a stand selling cheap merchandise around every corner. Tourism, in my opinion, has slowly influenced travel, both in good and bad ways.

On one hand, tourism has given us safe parameters. Guided tours. Bus stations. Visitor desks. Pamphlets. Postcards. Inside these parameters, it’s safe. It’s like staying in a bubble, where you can see the sights without ever really getting to know the nation’s culture.

On the other hand, this same bubble of safety causes all kinds of problems. Because we can stay safely on the well-trodden path, it seems like there’s no need to behave differently. All the time, I see groups of visitors from other countries, completely oblivious to the new country around them. They act as if the world is on a platter, drifting by for their amusement. I don’t know about you, but I would like to see tourists give a little more respect for the countries they’re imposing upon.

But on a more obvious level, tourism has given us something else: merchandise. We have been well-taught by a bad teacher; we need merchandise to remember our travels.

These are the trinkets, the knick-a-brack, the clutter that has been haphardly organized onto your dressers, your windowsills, your cupboards. You really can sell anything to tourists. Like snowglobes.

There was a time when a snowglobe was magical. But it has been degraded to just one more collectible, touristy piece of merchandise, themed after whatever attraction you’re advertising. Tourism can do that.

In closing, when you travel abroad, be respectful of other nation’s customs. Remember to hold the journey in your esteem as highly as you hold the destination. Because at the destination, you will do things that you planned to do. But during the journey, things will happen that you didn’t plan, and those will be the stories that will be told and retold in your family. Make sure to remind tourism that it doesn’t own you, every once in a while. Go off the beaten path. Be brave in your travels. I also do not wish to offend any tourism marketers, snowglobe collectors, or those who make their living complaining about long plane flights. Until next time, get out there and keep traveling!

 

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