The Privilege of Travelling

When I was away in Bandung I kept thinking of the essay “The Ugly Tourist” by Jamaica Kincaid. I just found my copy while unpacking books, and though the entire essay is well worth a read (it’s about 2 and a half pages), the last paragraph (below) is an important reminder about travelling and visiting places, and a critical check on intentions. (That essay and Alain de Botton’s book “The Art of Travel) should be mandatory reading).

That the native does not like the tourist is not hard to explain. For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere. Every native everywhere lives a life of overwhelming and crushing banality and boredom and desperation and depression, and every deed, good and bad, is an attempt to forget this. Every native would like to find a way out, every native would like a rest, every native would like a tour. But some natives–most natives in the world–cannot go anywhere. They are too poor. They are too poor to go anywhere. They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives; and they are too poor to live properly in the place where they live, which is the very place you, the tourist, want to go–so when the natives see you, the tourist, they envy you, they envy your ability to leave your own banality and boredom, they envy your ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for yourself.

~Jamaica Kincaid, The Ugly Tourist, The Norton Reader, Tenth Edition.

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