Stay Home! A Tirade Against Tourism
by Joan Z. Shore
The world’s population is exploding; the world itself is shrinking; and travel is becoming a nerve-wracking, back-breaking, soul-crushing ordeal.
So why is everyone on the road? Or in the air?
Why, when television, computers, iPhones and iPads are bringing the world into your living room, are you still booking flights to Paris and cruises to Cancun?
Why are you struggling to find the lowest fares, the chic-est hotels, the newest restaurants, the sunniest beaches when in the end you’re going to return home disappointed, exhausted and ready for another vacation?
Stop right there! You are never going to find the perfect vacation. Perfect vacations are a thing of the past: the Grand Tour of Europe, the Cooks Tour, the Roman Holiday…they have gone the way of the elegant French Line, when “getting there was half the fun.”
These days, unless you can pay your way or pry your way out of an Economy Class flight, you will be trundled into a kindergarten-size seat along with several hundred strangers, served a trayful of inedible muck and alternately chilled and roasted by the plane’s erratic ventilating system.
Or, on a ship as big as the Vatican, you will be lost among three thousand strangers who pass away the nautical hours eating, drinking and gambling. You might as well be home alone with a pizza, a bottle of Chianti and a deck of cards.
So far, I have been exploding the perennial myths about travel in light of present-day realities. Now, let me present the other side of the problem: the natives whose homeland is invaded by foreigners.
I am such a self-proclaimed native. Having lived in Paris for three decades, I consider it my rightful residence, my city, my home. Imagine, then, my utter despair when a caravan of tourist buses (half of them empty) navigates down a neighbourhood street. Inevitably, these mastodons end up at the Eiffel Tower, park there for a while, and then continue on their implacable rounds.
But of course at some point they disgorge their passengers, and these hapless creatures wander around the streets, map in one hand and camera in the other. Sometimes they have the temerity to ask someone for directions—and what a relief if I am the English-speaking native they happen to ask! I have helped Russians, Hungarians, Japanese, Finns and countless others whose English is just adequate enough to say, “Excuse me, please…?” and the finger points to a spot on the map.
There are other tourists, of course, who return regularly to Paris and who are more savvy: the fashion crowd, for example, who come for the Collections. They book the best restaurants for dinner, hire private limousines and take over the town like imperial warlords. I resent their presence, too, because they are appropriating my city and turning it into their private playground!
Listen, folks, Paris is not a playground. Nor is it a quaint leftover from your history books. It is a place where you can write, paint, philosophize, dream, stroll, eat, drink or simply lose yourself. If you wake up early, it’s sunrise on the Seine; if you get lucky, it’s love in the afternoon. I’m sorry, but your presence here in droves distracts me, distresses me, drives me fou.
And I remind you—you had a rotten trip over here, your hotel is a dump, the prices are outrageous, and you couldn’t get through the crowds at the Louvre.
Stay home! You can see the Mona Lisa on the Internet.