Manufacturing travel consumption

Posted on 17 août 2011


The ultimate goal of the traveller is to ignore where he goes (Lao Tseu)

Walking around India, Mexico, Thailand  or Peru, you will meet a new type of missionaries. They are easy targets to recognize because they all carry around the new Bible, aka The Book, i.e. Lonely Planet. They clutch to it as if their life depends on it.

I dub them Pensee unique philosophers. Checking en masse into the same hotels (The Bible says our pick), eating at the same restaurants (serving invariably the same overpriced insipid westernized cuisine) and believing everything that has been written years ago and re-printed at minimal cost. Where’s the originality, the interest of mixing, tasting , where is the adventure ? Gathering at fancy places that local people cannot afford, the Bible wide open, they study religiously, and will  read it aloud later on to other Followers – to gain status showing they know how to survive in the wild…).

No prospective, no sense of humour, they just follow the Bible and brand themselves backpackers! They entered in religion, avoiding contact with locals since The Book describes them as thieves, pickpockets and crooks. Anyhow, most of the Followers are not here to discover anything by themselves, notwithstanding having fun : in the absence of a western adulthood ritual, they need to show their relatives they can survive in hostile lands (with mobile phone, private driver, Indiana Jones outfit and loads of cash) or worse, get a life on Facebook. I’ve been there, I’ve done that..yeah, the world tour in 4 months (genuine).

This is not travelling, this is travel mass consumption, a bit like shopping at a mall. In the old days, flights were expensive and they were almost no travel guide books. So people would stay a couple of months in the same country, trying to get the most of it by chatting with locals, doing a bit of work…

What’s the use of a travel guide-book anyway, when a map is more than enough and the « places of interest » can be found talking to locals, that of course know better than any travel writer sent over for a couple of weeks to sum up a whole continent in 600 pages. Did the Followers lose any common sense ? Moreover, LP is not going to tell you where the fun is : no insiders tips, or parties, or anything exciting.

Above all, those enlightened young people, well dressed, clean-cut, do not make any effort to learn a few words of bahasa or hindi or spanish to make their way around! They read The Book and they just understand everything at once.  How much money local teacher or workers make ? Don’t care, it’s not written in the verses of LP and life is sooo cheap here. They pretend to be original at that, while following the same old beaten track, step by step. So appalling ! Everybody on the Banana pancake trail !
Let me give you a few tips to get TLC and more: just pretend you are a Bible Apostle (aka writer). It takes almost no preparation, a few fake business cards or T-shirt (LP printed on the front and STAFF on the back). Then you will get bribed by every single hotel owner in India, and laid by a plethora of nuns (LP groupies) who will listen endlessly to your hard-boiled traveller tales.

Business SECTION (the greedy side of the tourism industry)

Quote from the LP website : Lonely Planet Client Solutions can shape the world’s greatest travel content around your specific business needs. Discover how we can work with you to power your brand in new and original ways,

That says it all, isn’t ? I cannot see an ounce of objective and deep travel research. Businesses give cash, and the BBC-LP editors deliver content. Any ethics ? Well, have you ever seen a corporation with ethics … ask BP !

Health SECTION aka Umbrella section

To add a bit of chili in The Book, and make gullible Followers believe that they actually risk their life overseas, the quantity of diseases described in the Bible is absolutely amazing. I wonder if their doctor in chief teamed up with the WHO during the last so-called pandemic (Swine Flu) that cost the taxpayer an eye and made the BigPharma corporations a lot richer. Honesty would dictate informing people about anti malaria tablets side effects – which are actually worse than the disease itself. But the legal umbrella has been deployed to prevent from suing. Parachutes are like minds, they work best when open.

10 reasons to buy LP :

  1. You need to be part of a herd, love the army or the party
  2. You are mute or deaf
  3. You believe everything that is written by a famous brand (everybody buys it !)
  4. You have no time to travel
  5. You don’t know how to use the Internet
  6. You have no friends
  7. You can’t read signs such as hotel or restaurant / You are clueless
  8. You have a very limited confidence in yourself
  9. You want to be rippêd-off in places that have doubled their prices because they are in The Book
  10. You do not like chai and you do your best to make the rents rise, so that like in Udaipur, you will only be served pure home Lipton tea because the chai chops could not afford the rents anymore, blown away by trendy arty shops that are soooo wonderful. You prefer german bakeries anyway, much more typical.

10 reasons NOT to buy LP :

  1. You want to save the forest
  2. You know that it takes at least a year before an update goes to press
  3. You like adventure and this is what travelling is about
  4. You can talk to people (where, when, what)
  5. You are aware that tourist offices exist
  6. You know that local restaurants are always better because local people eat there
  7. You understand the negative impact of mass tourism (when the LP missionary pays 50 for a taxi that’s worth 10, no more taxis for locals)
  8. You know that you will always find a missionary that will recite a mantra for you
  9. You hate the political correctness and censorship of pensée unique
  10. You understand that life is a risk, and there is no insurance against that

A bit of reading :

Fieldwork Without Remorse: Travel Desires in a Tourist World (PDF)