Travel, as like, a concept is really weird. Like how we as Western people are encouraged to explore developing countries because exploration is supposed to make us smarter, more worldly, sensitive and maybe even better as like a people.
Last summer I went to Guatemala to go see it for myself. Or whatever. My three friends and I got off the plane in Guatemala City where we didn’t stay because we were told by “everyone” that there was “nothing to see” and to go to Antigua instead. So, we got into this huge van with four other Westerners who were also told by “everyone” to go to Antigua for its “colonial architectural beauty.”
Each day I’d take a walk by myself with a camera looking for an “authentic” experience that I could capture, you know, so that I could physically own the memory of traveling. On my fourth day I went walking through this labyrinth of an alleyway, far from the trappings of beauty offered by the “main square.” When I reached the end of the alley I saw this really elderly and impoverished Guatemalan woman, with like, missing teeth weaving brightly colored cloths on this big weaving apparatus. And I stopped, for like a whole three minutes and we exchanged a really long glance. I felt like I could see into her soul. I took some photos of her, like, without asking. I remember how pleased I felt, that I actually found something in that alley entirely mine. Like, I owned it or something.
Later at dinner that night I showed my photos to the girls I was traveling with and one of them said how “special” it was to “explore a place with such a rich history of people whose culture was so durable despite all of the attacks of colonialism on it.” And right then I realized that in this certain way, when we travel to developing countries we’re all just performing as modern day Christopher Columbuses. That we walk around exploiting the very people we believe we’re learning from. And if we really think about it, we’re traveling to say we saw something because it gives us this, like, cultural capital. But if we really wanted to be better as a people we should reconsider “travel” as we know it. Perhaps it’d be better if we just stayed in our rooms. Like, forever.