01 February 2011

The package tour of the road less traveled, part III

Y'know, I really don't mean to pick on the New York Times travel section. And yet I see that I've recently blogged about several of their stories, and I'm about to do so again. So allow me to note that it's the travel section that I read the most, so by default it's the place where I find the most comment-worthy stories.  They publish some great stuff (recent favorites include this and this). Someday, I'd love to see my own byline there. I'm probably not doing myself any favors with the Newspaper In Which I Would Most Like To Have My Own Book Reviewed (preferably positively ...) by cherry-picking examples of just how silly it can be sometimes.

Still with me? Okay, here we go. Thing is some of the NYT's stories, man ... They just keep hitting some of the classic tropes of travel writing, the themes and adjectives I love to hate. Like this "Practical Traveler" blog post, in which I have added my own running tally of road-less-traveled cliches (my numbers in grey):

Beat the Crowds to Up-and-Coming Destinations

The upside of visiting an emerging destination is pristine (1) landscapes, reasonable — if not decidedly cheap — prices and the rare opportunity to experience the authenticity (2) of a place before it’s overrun (3) by tourists.

There are, however, often trade-offs: the lack of a good transportation infrastructure, rudimentary hotel service, and poor medical facilities. Timing a visit can also be tricky in countries where political stability is a relative term. But with an adventurous attitude, the benefits of exploring new places usually outweigh the struggles involved. Ready to lay claim (4) to the next great place? Below, four emerging destinations.
  • (1), (2), (3) I feel like I've just said this, but there's something especially self-centered and absurd--even odious--about the mindset that you just know a place is about to become "spoiled" or lose its so-called authenticity, so you have to get there first. That is, you need to help destroy it before others can. Don't forget: travel is a race! Whoever gets there first gets more Authenticity Gold Stars!
  • (4) I know it's a blog post and I shouldn't get too hung up on word choice (goodness, if anyone started parsing the phrasing of my own hastily-scribbled posts, well, I'm sure I'd cringe). But I do think that the expression "lay claim" is telling--it gets at the same authenticity-seeking mentality and also betrays a certain manifest destiny attitude. The place is mine--the tourist's--for the taking. If I get there first, I get to keep it.

And I promise that my next post will have absolutely nothing to do with the Times

1 comment:

  1. I think you've said it as well as it can be said: *I* have to get their first so that the place will be *mine*. I think it's disturbing when you unpack the word choice of "lay claim." Of course he doesn't literally mean that, it's a figure of speech, blah blah blah, but what does it mean that we're still using the language of colonizing and conquering (even if it's figurative) to talk about casually visiting a place for fun? It's really downright creepy.

    Of course, you know my feelings about the general attitude of the NYT....


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