I’ve been trying to get out of a trip with friends to Bangkok that’s hyped to be filled with alcohol, strip-clubs, drugs, techno-music, hallucinogens, women and a bit of gambling. I’m trying to get out because I, obviously, am an idiot and have no regard for inebriated debauchery and gyration.
All evening, I’ve been trying to convince this friend to travel instead to Petra, Jordan: it is History in the flesh, majestic, economic (airfare-wise) and pretty much an all-round miracle. Think of the culture, the tongues, the people! – I pleaded. How, if we don’t experience the Other, can we really reflect on our own selves? Let’s get lost in a bazaar! Let’s find out how and more importantly, why that bazaar is different from our markets. When has one, who has never been lost, found anything of worth?
He couldn’t stop laughing. Who wants to go to freakin’ Petra! You and your esoteric fantasies! Undaunted, I ask him what better destinations he’d prefer to travel to. He replied: Las Vegas, for some good poker, Barcelona, to catch an epic game of football, Amsterdam, to taste their weed and nightlife.
I tried pointing out that we’ve done all of those things to some extent: played poker online, watched great games of football on TV and tasted local weed & skunk for years on end. Why not venture into the unknown? Fine! Your destination preferences are higher/better than mine, he jeers and then adds, plus I’m xenophobic.
To take a giant leap from an ordinary after-work conversation: are we increasingly attracted towards the idea of traveling? Destinations & activities which fit social expectations and look good on Instagram? Oh! You didn’t eat at Kuru Fasülyeci? You’ve missed it all! You did and didn’t check-in? That’s like it never happened! It’s like there are preconditions for a socially-marketable and enviable trip these days: beach-sports, nature lodges (air-conditioned of course), night-club with the most scantily-clad girls, restaurant with priciest Veal, unique landmark and at least 7-year old wines. Miss any one of them and your trip will drop a couple of notches in terms of Enviability. I wonder what part of our travels are dictated by what others think of us as a result of pictures and status-updates that follow from it.
While it’s principally wrong to judge destination-preferences, it feels like young people these days will opt for a structured getaway where each activity or landmark has a particular social significance back home. They have this irrepressible need to know exactly what their money is buying and how that acquisition stacks up compared to their peers’ escapades. Getting lost or immersed in a foreign culture, where no one knows your name and where the indigenous culture is mundanely exotic, is an archaic ambition. Following the old pilgrims’ path is a lost art.
Maybe I should consider putting my Petra journey on hold and submit to drunken stupidity in some sleazy Pattaya nightclub.