The sociologist Rodolphe Christin has published "Manuel de l'antitourisme" published by Yago.
Rodolphe Christin is a sociologist and anthropologist by training. He published "Manual of Antitourism" published by Yago.

Has tourism killed the spirit of travel?

  Between Two Journeys

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

A few days ago, I met the sociologist Rodolphe Christin for an interview. He is the author of Anti-tourism manual, published by Yago. A little book "hair scratch", in which he invites us to give meaning to our travels.

Tourist or traveller?

The sociologist Rodolphe Christin has published "Manuel de l'antitourisme" published by Yago.
Rodolphe Christin is a sociologist and anthropologist by training. He published "Manuel de l'antitourisme" (Manual of anti-tourism) at Yago editions.

In his Anti-tourism manualRodolphe Christin returns to the issue of the traveler versus the tourist. He virulently denounces the socio-ecological damage caused by the tourist industry. But above all, his book gives us food for thought on what the fact of wanting to "go on vacation" says about us, about our society.

Of course, there are many different ways to travel. But whether it's an all-inclusive package, a dry flight, an "adventure" tour or a "fair trade" trip, let's keep in mind that we Westerners, who travel for pleasure, are necessarily tourists. "There are sometimes of travel in our tourism and always of tourism in our travels"recalls Rodolphe Christin. True enough!

In the late morning, tourists invade Maya Beach on the island of Koh Phi Phi Leh in Thailand. This is where the film "The Beach" was shot with Bernardo Di Caprio and Virginie Ledoyen.
In late morning, tourists invade Maya Beach, on the island of Koh Phi Phi Leh, Thailand. It is there that was shot the movie "The Beach" with Bernardo Di Caprio and Virginie Ledoyen.

I didn't mention it in my article, but I like one of the reflections he makes in his book, saying that the real adventure, today, is not so much on the side of some very mediatized "explorers" who make the television viewers dream, but rather among the travelers of migration.

Among those who take insane risks to leave, in the hope of a better life elsewhere... It's quite fair.

The interview: "Our leisure society has turned travel into a consumer product"

I give you below the text of the interview published in Ouest-Franceon Saturday, October 25, 2008. Due to limited lineage, this is of course only a summarized version of our interview...

Interview with Rodolphe Christin, Antitourism Handbook, Ouest-France, October 25, 2008Why do you say that tourism is an "anti-travel"?
- To travel is to obey a nomadic impulse, a bit libertarian, which pushes us to adventure, to discovery, to knowledge. But our leisure society has turned travel into a consumer product. We are sold a catalog of sun or snow, entertainment or exoticism. The destination is often less important than the price, the comfort, the service, the décor. The tourist service has replaced the spirit of travel.

The exoticism promised by the tour operators is only an illusion?
- The tourist industry tends to erase exoticism, as a cultural and aesthetic shock, even existential. Transportation is organized, sites are developed, hotels are standardized. Even for independent travelers, it is difficult to leave the marked paths.

You denounce with virulence the misdeeds of the tourist industry...
- Today, it is the world's leading economic activity. The paradox of tourism is that it kills what it lives on. Everywhere on the planet, the environment is massacred to make places "welcoming". Concreted coasts, parking lots, excessive water consumption... Tourists represent a tiny minority of the world's population, but they have a major impact on the places they visit. Tourism exploits, pollutes, destroys.

You make it sound like you'd rather not go on holiday anymore!
- No, but maybe we should travel differently. Give priority to the destination. Leave less often, longer, less far away. Some blame themselves by turning to "fair" or "sustainable" tourism. I do not doubt their sincerity. But it remains a tourist product.

How to find the spirit of travel?
- By leaving room for the unforeseen, the lived, the encounter. By also trying to be a little more lucid on our way of life. We leave to escape a daily life that is not always very exciting. It is perhaps this daily life that we should reinvent. Escape sometimes lies in a simple stroll close to home. Travel is a dream, a philosophy, a curiosity. It begins on the doorstep.

Praise of slowness

The sociologist concludes his book with an eulogy of slowness: he suggests that we leave as few traces as possible around us on our travels. And also to "make the effort to take a step aside".

It is an invitation to slip into the mesh of everyday life, "these interstices of here and elsewhere that the official circuits superbly ignore, if not by accident". Little excerpt:

This is also what exoticism is all about, this part of the unseen, of the unlived, that travel, because it changes perspectives and provokes new experiences, allows us to discover and experience despite the discomfort - mental more than physical -, the uncertainty, the fear sometimes. To discover, to meet, for the best and for the worst.
Being there, really there, leads the consciousness outside, outside of our horizons and the ordinary contours of our subjectivity, thanks to a full and complete receptivity, exacerbated by the change of context, where one collects the world like the water of the source in the hollow of one's hands.
Once out of oneself, the trivial surrounds itself with a particular aura, it displays its presence inside the consciousness. This is how the journey allows us to access the universal in ourselves, via a detour that opens "the doors of perception".

And you, what is your definition of exoticism? Do you feel you have the spirit of travel?

ADDED January 19, 2009. On the same theme, I invite you to discover my fresh experience of "all inclusive" tourism in the Dominican Republic in this post → The joys and sorrows of "todo incluido.

  Between Two Journeys

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  1. As I fell early from my bed, I had a little trouble at first reading of the definition of exoticism. I told myself, at a second reading, that exoticism is at the fingertips of everyone, right next door. It can be a perfume, a spice, a face, a situation, or even a typical restaurant of distant lands.

    In short, everything that does not reflect the education rooted in our cerebral hippocampus, whose primary vision does not usually push for opening to crops with diverse horizons. But as soon as the hunger exacerbated pushes this spinal region to feast on 5 senses very different from those of the local restaurant, then we turn resolutely to the exotic.

    As to whether the exotic is better for the one who would have remained several months, taking his time, discovering, it is not sure that this mode of transhumance momentary run away from the mercantile side of travel ... always organized even by oneself. Because to look at it, whether in the West, East, North or South, each civilization or people now knows the progress of next and the Western wealth that is measured more often to the currency fiduciaire .

    Let there be no mistake, inner wealth is a value that still exists but we often taste it mutually for a moment, for an exotic trip ... Everything goes so fast, everything changes so quickly. And what if exoticism were to disappear for lack of a creeping and pleasant mix ?? 🙄 I think I have to become aware of this universal risk in me, via a detour that opens "the doors of the world" ... 💡

  2. I think your point of view is quite close to that of the sociologist, in essence: exoticism is within everyone's reach, just around the corner.

  3. Hello Corinne,

    I haven't been to your blog for a while, but this morning I almost fell over!... What happened to that cool little backpacking journalist blog that felt "just like home"?... Here's Corinne's new version, with an ultra-pro layout, very magazine-like, and very effective.

    Does that sound a little familiar or am I mistaken?... 😉

    Bravo in any case for this complete turnaround, it's clean, clear and precise. I'm a bit confused at the moment with all the illustrations but I'll find my bearings very quickly. And I think you're well on the way to the next stage... 🙂

    As for thinking about the trip, I'm gonna swallow my tea and come back ...

  4. interesting! I think we could talk about it for hours over a good Bintang!
    In my opinion, travel, the kind that enriches us through encounters and discoveries, is a luxury - the luxury of time! It takes time to make a real journey... time to get lost off the beaten track, time to stop in one place for more than a day, time to enter a contemplative state, time to share more than a cigarette with the locals...
    I had the time for 6 months, an incredible opportunity. Unfortunately, it won't happen to me every year! I'm going to get my 5 weeks' paid annual leave back, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to go back from being a traveler to being a tourist, even though a trip always changes the way you look at life.

  5. @ A World Elsewhere:
    What a pleasure to see you back here, Marie-Ange! Since this summer, the blog has indeed evolved, but in gradual steps. And I must say that a certain blog I know well has indeed inspired me 😉
    But for my part, I didn't want to turn mine into too much of a "magazine". It took me a long time to find a theme (made by an Indonesian, no less!) that kept the blog's philosophy (the posts continue to follow one another on the home page), while offering a more dynamic look and functions. But I see you've finally gone back to a "blog" presentation on Un Monde Ailleurs...
    Above all, I hope that this evolution, which I've been careful to make in small, gradual steps, doesn't cause it to lose too much of its "ultra-fun", "like home" feel, as I continue and will continue to feed it during my backpacking adventures. The main novelty, in truth, is that I'm now making it live more actively between two trips. Enjoy your reading...

    @ Marie-Net:
    Oh, yes! A Bintang! 😀
    I'm with you on this one: the real luxury is to have time. For my part, I'm lucky enough to be able to take rather long breaks, compared with the usual vacation periods. So I'm a tourist who has a little more time than others to enjoy her travels.
    Many people find it hard to understand how I can, for example, "stick" somewhere for ten days in a row, or even longer, simply because I feel good there. Or, on the contrary, that I zap straight off somewhere else, as the mood takes me, when I don't like a place. No need to make reservations or anything. What freedom! What luxury!
    And I'm thinking of really taking the time one day, like you were lucky enough to do. Several months in a row, to return to Asia, but quietly, by land...
    Meanwhile, even in our "tourist" escapades I think there's room for the spirit of travel.

  6. Very interesting, this line of thought in your interview. I agree with the sociologist in principle (yes, even if we don't want that label, all travellers are tourists too), but I always find that these discussions end up going round in circles. Tourism is a mega-industry that also provides jobs all over the world. Even if "locals" rarely benefit from its spin-offs, the fact remains that many wouldn't be able to make a living without it. I feel an enormous sense of unease when I go (rarely, but I do go) to resorts, mainly because most of the tourists who stay there have no awareness of their surroundings. At the same time, these people are clearly not looking for exoticism (at least, not the way I define it), but for a respite, a comfortable little "bubble" where they can take refuge and catch their breath. Is this wrong? Insofar as it's assumed and we leave as little trace as possible, trying to be as ethical as possible, it doesn't seem to me to be a crime.
    As for my definition of exoticism, it's quite variable. Right now, with the snow starting to fall in Quebec and my relatively sedentary lifestyle, I'm a lot less fickle about exoticism! lol But as much as I'd love to find it around the corner, to rediscover it again and again just a stone's throw from home, it usually involves a long-haul flight... To find myself "out of myself", I need to get out of my own context. To get some real perspective.
    As for slowness, it's the ultimate luxury of our time (especially here, where we struggle to get 2, sometimes 3 weeks of vacation a year).
    (I don't know if any of this makes sense, my brain is still engulfed in mucus and I'm falling asleep!)

  7. Yes, yes, all that is very coherent! And sums up pretty well the paradoxes raised by Rodolphe Christin in his book.

    He himself doesn't want to set himself up as a "judge", he told me. He examines our behavior through the eyes of a sociologist, trying to open our eyes to the mega-industry of tourism. And while he doesn't deny certain economic spin-offs, he feels, as you do, that the "locals" benefit little from them.

    As for the "respite", the "bubble" to which so many of us aspire, the sociologist's point is not that it's a crime. Simply that it reveals a certain malaise in our society, in our daily lives. With the perverse effect of often blinding us to the realities of the countries we visit.

    I have to say that my own exoticism also involves long-haul flights more often than not. (But maybe one day I'll manage to free up some time for a long, slow overland journey?) One thing's for sure: I like being far away, I like losing my bearings. There's something exhilarating and dizzying about being thousands of miles away from your usual environment. And to discover what really matters, once you're out of your routine and your ordinary context. Sensitivity is heightened, life seems denser and richer. And, yes, of course, it would take more than a few weeks a year...


  8. "One thing is sure: I like to be far, I like to lose my bearings. There is something exhilarating, dizzying, to be known thousands of kilometers from its usual environment. And to find out what really matters once you get out of your routine and out of the ordinary. The sensitivity is exacerbated again, life seems denser, richer. "

    I copy and paste: that's exactly THAT!

  9. Ah... As for me, I could have copied and pasted this beautiful post entitled Exoticism that you published late August.

    I think I can say without being too wrong that our two sensibilities are quite close on this subject ...


  10. Hi Corinne, I see travel as an eulogy of slowness. Travel can help us relearn how to take our time. Even if we only have a few vacations a year, it's possible to break the rhythm of our daily lives, because work and family commitments often leave us no time to stop and realize that a change of scenery is sometimes just down the road. Travelling is a state of mind, not a departure. Travelling is about opening your eyes to what's out there. Travelling is taking the time to listen to a stranger. Travelling is not escaping from everyday life. To travel is not to judge, but to know how to receive and travel is to be transported by a feeling, an emotion, an encounter.

  11. @ Sylvie: Your definition of travel is interesting and very accurate. I also agree with your praise of slowness, with the idea that travel is more about the "state of mind" than the "departure". Even if, for my part, I need a real break with my everyday life to feel "transported", a break that often involves a departure... Many thanks for this beautiful contribution, which invites us to travel too, by opening our eyes more to what surrounds us.

  12. Hello Corinne,
    first of all, thank you for the link to my blog on your site,
    I would not fail to do the same on mine that I would be out of qq worries about an unplanned vacation from my hard drive, lloll,
    in cybers, hard to work as you want.
    This reflection on the trip is very relevant, I summarize for my part to these words: ELOGE OF LENTEUR.
    Over the days I will continue to enjoy your blog,

  13. @ travelerasi: Yes, I'm delighted to see that many of us here share this "philosophy of slowness" when traveling... I too will continue to "savor" your blog (that's a nice word). See you soon via interposed blogs!

  14. Hello,

    Interesting, I did not know this book, I will try to get it!
    In the same vein, I recommend "L'Idiot du voyage: Histoires de touristes" by Jean-Didier Urbain, another sociologist.

    And "Theory of travel: poetics of geography" by Michel Onfray.
    Some passages here:

    Have a nice week end !


  15. With a fair bit of delay: superb article... I really like the final passage. Thank you, it gives me food for thought for my next trip!

  16. Very interesting point of view on travel, traveler... Who if he's not careful, it becomes difficult, even impossible depending on the country (Vietnam, Thailand), falls into "tourism".

    I share your opinion, and yet we have just launched, which can find a fellow traveler, a teammate for an expedition ...?

    Does giving a helping hand to the sharing of adventure perhaps mean denying ourselves certain encounters?... Does this comfort distance us from the journey or, on the contrary... Travel is to be shared?