So, I’ve not posted anything in a long time. There are a bunch of reasons for this.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t lost a passion for writing, or travel, or anything. Far from it. But life, as ever, gets in the way. I’ve been working fairly steadily for the last few months and by the end of the day it’s hard to pull together the will to hammer out some words about buying a toque in Ireland or being a bread their in Paris (long story).
You have to be in a certain mindset to write certain things, plain and simple. A lot of the time I’ll come home from work with the intention to write, and all I want is escapism. Rather than work towards a new post for 3PoC, I’d instead work on articles pertaining to the video game industry (my favourite one never getting beyond my computer because it could potentially be bad for my job (read: having one).
So, the escapism, right. I’ve worked for a few years on a few different projects. One, a novel-turned-screenplay I’ve been working on with one of my best friends for about six years. It’s currently on hiatus, because apparently academic pursuits are important (I don’t get it either).
There’s a series I started back in 2006, as well. It began as an old blog rant about retail, which shifted to a short story, which shifted then to a novel. That, too, was shelved. The main character is an exaggeration of myself (and anyone who writes that says they don’t project themselves through their characters is a filthy goddamned liar), and when I got out of retail in 2008 he had little else to expound upon. But still, I poke around with that story. I’d mentioned up there how this was a series. This character is so close to me that writing him became a bit of a personal blog thing. He gets to take paths I didn’t. He’s my “what if?” version of me. Do you ever reenact arguments you’ve had and come up with the best responses, weeks after they’ve occurred? That’s this guy. I’ve got three full story arcs for him, it’s just getting it all sorted.
So those are my escapist works. Rather than writing stuff for this site, I take the “easy route” and write those. I consider it easier because I don’t have any obligation to put it up anywhere. Maybe, soon, I’ll get something up featuring pseudo-me.
I’ve always been good at excuses.
I’ll actually write about travel now, sorry.
You know what bothers me? Tours. Not all tours, mind you. I like tours of famous places and the free tours you find in cities where you give some poor student guide 10 Euros for the trouble. No, the tours I take issue with are the rowdy booze tours. I won’t name names, but let’s say there’s a company called Monkiki (ha). They advertise “see Europe! See the world! Be the envy of your friends!” Blah, blah, blah.
See, it’s hard to continue without sounding like a travel hipster. The whole “be a traveller, not a tourist,” thing. On the contrary, I like tourists. Just not these tours, follow? If you’re going in, knocking about Paris for five days, staying at the Georges V and dining on the Seine, go nuts. That’s awesome. Be a tourist. You’re paying your own money, you do what you damn well please.
Back to the tour companies, though, and the folks therein. You’re on a bus – an air-conditioned bus with a bathroom. You’re halfway through your 30-day whirlwind tour of continental Europe. You’re hung over and you’re rolling into Prague. The overly-cheerful, somewhat suggestive tour guide grabs the microphone and tells you a Wikipedia-pulled Coles Notes history of the city. You groggily suck back Powerade and shove some chips into your mouth in a vain attempt to recoup electrolytes and sodium so you can repeat tonight what you did in Budapest last night. Or, was it Vienna? There was a church there. Maybe Bratislava? You go through your photos trying to figure out where you’ve been for the last week as the guide goes on about that night’s hostel, wrist bands, and what the first free drink of the night will be (it’ll be a Jagerbomb. It’s always a Jagerbomb). You pull into the city in the dark, toss your bag in a locker, brush your teeth, frantically try to remove the wrinkles from your blue dress shirt and beige khakis and head out into the night.
They’re less of a tour of Europe and more of a “well, I puked in that river, and that river, and…no wait, that was a canal. There was a bush I puked in somewhere but I can’t remember what city that was.
Sure, I’m generalizing, but tell me that’s not at least usually the case. And here it is: that’s technically travelling. By definition, my heading to work is travelling. Hell, going to the bathroom from your bedroom is travelling. But participating in these lush tours is not “opening you to the world” or “expanding your horizons.” Expanding your liver, maybe.
And I’m not trying to be a prude here, either. Ask anyone I travelled with, the blind guy from Canada can hold his own. I’ve had a man in a kebab shop keep my 12-pack of Kronenbourg cold for me while I drank with a bunch of Scandinavians in an Icelandic guy’s powerless flat in France. I’ve bought a 26er of gin for 3 Euros in Salzburg with an Englishman and a Korean guy. I’ve got two nights I simply cannot account for. So don’t think I’m hating on the drink.
I get upset when I talk with people about travel and they go on about how well-travelled they are, only to find out that they’ve been on these tin-can booze-tours.I guess, yes, you’ve physically been to these places, I can’t dispute that. But what did you get out of it?
Maybe I still romanticize the idea of travel. Maybe I’m the one in the wrong here.
But, well, let’s use this example. I used to live in the Niagara region. Before my exile, we’d head to Niagara Falls here and there. My friends and I would park at the casino and walk to the edge to look at the falls. For what it’s worth, the city of Niagara Falls is a tacky hellhole, but the falls themselves are still incredible. There are millions of litres of water going over a huge drop, slamming into a rocky chasm. The sound alone is worth the visit.
So, here’s the natural majesty of the falls, right? Here comes a bus full of (generalizing, but usually) Chinese tourists. They stop 20 feet from the falls – great wonder of the world that they are – and they file out. Standing by the bus, they pop open their flip phones (flip phones!), take a half-assed picture, and file back onto the bus. The whole thing takes no more than two minutes. I lived there for ten years and I’m still not bored of the falls. Two fucking minutes. I’ve seen this behaviour in Paris, Dublin, Marseille, Munich…all over the place. Hell, it happens in Toronto, and fucked if I know what they’re taking pictures of. Yonge and Dundas Square, maybe. One of my favourite things to do is to photobomb their group photos.
To me, this whole phenomenon is confusing. It’s not necessarily bad, but it baffles me. Why did you spend presumably thousands of dollars to get a blurry photo of the falls and go home? Granted, these are the same people who buy Niagara red wine and mik it with Coke, so…
There are plenty of different types of travel. No one type is right, no one is wrong. But the way these tour companies work, to me, that seems a waste. It’s like if I gave you a book of the world’s greatest photographs and you tore off the cover and kept that. Except the book costs $2000 dollars and you’re an idiot.
I’m out of coffee and I don’t think they’re willing to top me up again. More soon.