one. I am a tourist and sometimes I have no choice but to hire services for tourists. I accept it. I suppose that reality prevails and, if one is not a lost case, it deflates any self-motivating impulse. Tourists were the ones who undertook the grand tour of Europe, one of the continent’s historical seams. Tourist recognizes my favorite travel writer, Javier Reverte. And yet, the drive to reject tourism is almost as universal as the tourist.
2. It is September, 2019. I return from a trip to Taiwan and Okinawa and I dedicate myself to reading news that I have been keeping during the summer: «This landscape does not exist: when the photographic posture goes out of hand in search of a like», « Bali is fed up with mochilimosneros “,” criticism of a tourist who tried to liberate chickens from the Tangier souk by force “,” going to see the poor “…. I am uncomfortable with this catalog of fools (from” bourgeois-bohemian »But also of others), for what it reveals of the trip turned into consumption but also for being too evident, too exculpatory: it is not difficult for me to see things there that I do not do. You might say: I am not a tourist.
3. And even so, I fly with these people, I share hotels and hostels with them, I visit some of the same places. Although I behaved decently once at my destination, I have gotten there using the same over-accelerated machinery. If what I do is different, it will be in the adjective, not in the noun.
Four. The trip as a little-disguised form of (post) colonialism, on the one hand, and the destructive machine, almost Tolkienian, on the other. I want to return to the trip that I have not closed and at the same time I am increasingly aware of the tourist fire.
5. It will not be enough for me to acknowledge my complicity. Neither with self-flagellation, nonchalance or “ethical posture”. I don’t believe in any of those things too much. Nor do I trust official, cosmetic alternatives: industries have found ways to sell us both blame and atonement without changing cash. There is a Coca-Cola environmentalism. And still, I travel. I mean, I do tourism. Why do we who are frightened by over-tourism travel? What contributes so much movement that is not whim, consumption or vanity?
6. Pilar Rubio, editor of The Line of the Horizon, tells in an interview that “travel books are in crisis because traveling has become something banal, superficial and narcissistic.” He speaks of people who travel without “delving into what they experience in their journeys.”
7. You can travel to the surface and return just as we left. Traveling does not open the mind, it does not cure nationalisms or help us to know ourselves by infused science. I have been living near Magaluf for too many years to know that tourism can stultify. The philosopher Amelia Valcárcel recalled that our country was condemned for too long to be South, to an exoticism of services from which it could not escape. And we may travel now, but we continue to see hangovers and asses to a North that comes to our terraces and our beaches to remind us that they are not more civilized, or less human, than we are.
8.I read Myths of the Journey, by Patricia Almarcegui, which soon becomes one of my favorite books on the subject. Almarcegui recognizes that tourists and travelers share spaces and systems, but he points out a vital difference between them: intention. The seconds are moved by an impulse to be there. The traveler seeks contact and knowledge. He travels because doing so has a testimonial value, of giving faith, of verifying what mediated information cannot do. He travels because he favors the gaze, that gaze that, John Berger reminded us, comes before the word. He travels, above all, to follow in the footsteps of others who traveled before, continuing a chain of travel writings that creates culture. And that is the idea that makes me fall most in love with Almarcegui: the trip as a palimpsest.
9. It is April 2020. We have been locked up at home for a few weeks because of the pandemic. The coronavirus has already traveled around the world, causing us to cancel even the smallest of our movements. I will not go to a congress in Poland, to the Portuguese Camino de Santiago, to the city where my family lives. Some anticipate a new, more ethical way of traveling, others the end of the global world. I am incapable of futurologies. The only thing I repeat to myself these days is that travel has historically been more the norm than the exception, and that fifty days of confinement cannot distort that inertia.
10. It is May but, for once, on the island there is no trace of those tourists who get drunk, get naked, shout at the airport, jump from balconies. Such tourism should be rethought, even if our economy did not depend on people who end up hospitalized for ethyl coma or “precipitation.” It would be better to continue welcoming (travel and hospitality are sister phenomena), but welcoming with civic friendship, without servility, without horror stories. If there is really a difference between tourists and travelers, it would be good to find and listen to the latter.
eleven. I still do not have great solutions to the disaster caused by modern tourism. I do have something clearer, at least, my ideal of travel: an opening to the unforced encounter, to an accumulation that is not in a hurry to draw great conclusions (that flees from “I have become very changed”) and that appreciates the slow transformation, understood only backwards. A form of drift that does not require attention, but, like the traveler from Cela, appreciates what is given to him. A journey that is not escapism (running away from: work, responsibility, routine) but search (traveling to, although it is not known where). A trip that wants depth without imposture or renouncing the happy joy of good frivolity, of playfulness. I aspire to something like that and I leave home for something like that. I hope that the pandemic does not end the structures that allow this journey. We need them to continue adding layers to the palimpsest, so that the world is (even more) conversation, encounter, polyphony.
Víctor Navarro is a professor at CESAG (U. P. Comillas). Doctor in Audiovisual Communication and Game Studies (URV, 2013). Postgraduate in Script Writing for Entertainment and Humor Television (UPF-IDEC, El Terrat, 2009). Author of the book ‘Cine Ludens: 50 dialogues between play and cinema’ (Editorial UOC, 2019).