Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and 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?
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!
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...
Why 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.