Barbarians don't travel. They simply go to destinations or conduct raids
Why do we travel (and where, and how)?
Cynics might point to the occasional Darwinian process of survival of the fittest (or the reverse: the demise of the not-so-fit). There is the story of two Indian travel bloggers on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in California who moved about with their selfie stick cameras to capture the best light and angle. Eventually, they fell 3,000 feet to their deaths. The bloggers might have harboured the misguided and fatal belief (quite literally in this case), that their status and maybe even their degree of happiness are enhanced by acquiring the respect and admiration of others.
Whether you shake your head in disbelief at such stories is a moot point. Travellers have always collected mementos of their journeys, whether souvenirs, photos, or live-action films. That has not changed in the digital age, it is just that everyone is doing it now and at colossal volumes. And yes, some travellers give in to their narcistic streak, and the joy of travel all too often becomes a banal exercise in self-promotion. But so what? No need to follow them if it offends you. But what did change dramatically is the sheer number of people chasing practically identical experiences.
Olga Tokuraczuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018 and this is arguably the most famous quote from her novel ‘Flights’. Anyone visiting European tourist hotspots might be reminded of Olga’s observation: Hordes of sightseers moving from one photogenic location to the next, ticking off boxes on some ‘top-things-to-see-and-do-in-XYZ‘ list, whilst capturing well-practised poses in front of some tourist highlight, before releasing the image onto social media, where very similar versions of those images can already be found. The scourge of modern life is FOMA: the fear of missing out on a list of much-see and must-do experiences, aided by a tourist industry that is promoting ‘instagramable’ photo ops to which everyone seems to flock to. And so the hordes march on, like crowds in a theme park going from one attraction to the next. Here is me in front of the Cathedral of Barcelona, and here is me riding a tram through the old town of Lisbon. Ticking off this list might be great fun to some, but does it really get us any closer to a meaningful travel experience?
I hope the posts listed on this site might inspire you to get on the road (or train, or boat, or bike) and to soak up what Europe has to offer. And be sure to engage in JOMA: the joy of missing out!