Traveling Without Being a Virtuist

Time again to talk travel, fellas. If you follow the Booby then you’ve already heard him harp about how travel can be an essential part of your self-education.

Yet, our first lesson can be learned before we even leave home simply by first adopting a little humility. Contrary to we see in the movies, few travellers will return from their jaunts having saved the world, participated in a revolution, or been indelibly accepted into a previously undiscovered tribe.

At most, you may well have had a hair-raising experience or two, experienced a personal epiphany, or perhaps made some new friends… or then again maybe none of these

Let’s start off by accepting something that will come as a complete surprise to many of your fellow travelers. If you’re traveling, whether domestically or internationally, you are a tourist. Yes, a tourist. Shudder to think.

As a tourist you will do things that tourists do. You will visit famous landmarks. You will frequently overpay for food and accommodations. You will even visit – horror, of horrors – the occasional gift shop. Yes, this is what tourists often do. To date, all these things are still legal and perfectly OK.

Now, there is a growing element within society that would like to change that. These are the virtuists, or as the Booby calls them, “dicks”. Virtuists will howl most conspicuously about wanting an “authentic” experience. They are simply too virtuous, you see, to be regarded as run-of-the-mill tourists. They exude righteousness wherever they go, and – believe the Booby when he tells you – they go almost everywhere (at least you have to give them that).

What’s funny is that most of the fellow travelers you meet these days are virtuists. It’s funny because virtuists like to think of themselves as a tiny, but elite group of moral exemplaries. No matter where you go, be it a hostel, a watering hole, or public park, you will find them. They are ever at the ready to tell you about their latest spiritual awakening, eye-opening moment, or “authentic” experience.

The Booby once had to endure an idiotic American girl boasting about the street vendor she happened upon in the apparently unexplored alleys of the nameless Peruvian city in which we found ourselves. She proudly reported having found the most delightful anticuchos she had ever tasted (probably among the only anticuchos she had ever tasted, let’s not lie). The Booby listened politely, as one should, and refrained from informing her that that the touristy walking tour he joined the previous day likely also visited that same vendor, and our amicable guide assured us that the anticuchos were very authentic, to the delight of almost everyone.

Authentic experiences are so important to virtuists that tour companies have been catering to them for decades. The “home stay” with an authentic local family has become the Holy Grail for travelers desperately seeking that little pat on the head when they share photos and experiences at the office back home. The more daring (and wealthy) find even more authentic experiences than those offered by the more bourgeois tour companies.

pavan-gupta-93706-unsplash
No idea what kind of dance these beautiful young ladies are performing, but the Booby can assure you virtuists will be delighted by its “authenticity”. Photo by pavan gupta

Now, not to be dicks ourselves, let’s just be clear. If virtuists want this, and if the locals give it to them freely of their own volition, then great. Anything that takes a dollar from the pocket of a Western moral fashionista and puts it into the pocket of a hard-worker from a poor country is fine with the Booby. But non-vituists can hereby relieve themselves of all guilt.

The subconscious aim of most virtuists is to draw a moral line of demarcation between themselves and you. They are superior, and by extension, you are inferior. They will resent your happiness to the exact degree that they relish their own perceived magnanimity.

So if you go to, say, India and want to see the Taj Mahal, but aren’t particularly interested in probing the “roads less travelled” for some anticipated cultural awakening, well then… you needn’t apologize. It’s your money, your excursion, and you can do as you damn well please, so long as you’re respectful of your hosts and observe the laws of the land.

Whether you’re a touristy tourist or some glowing paragon of virtue, the fact is you’re seeing something new, hopefully learning something, and injecting some welcome currency into a local economy. And don’t forget to have a good time. Hell, if you want to stay in an all-inclusive hotel and never venture beyond the front gates that’s fine, too. To be clear, that’s not what the Booby would do, but it’s your dime, and your dime should buy you the excursion you desire.

Truth be told, the majority of “authentic” experiences are to varying degrees scripted, manufactured, or merely exaggerated after-the-fact by the ones doing the experiencing. It’s a business for the most part, though some refuse to admit it. And that’s OK, too, at least to an extent…

Not surprisingly, most virtuists come from the same segment of the population that, back home, will indulge in everything from identity politics to public health crusading. Thus, they often represent a totalitarian impuse imperceptibly scowling from behind masks of civic selflessness.

Here’s the catch, though, fellas. These characters have far less control over you abroad than they do back home. They may stew in rage because some foreign bar-owner allowed you to smoke a cigar in his place, but they can’t stop it. They may bubble over with fury when they see you impressing the local ladies with your Western charms, but their fundamentalism is powerless over there.

So go. Travel. See what you will. Learn something. Or just enjoy yourself if that’s all you want. It’s called freedom, and you might even come to realize you have a little more of it in many foreign lands than in your own. Now that’s a lesson learned.

Just don’t be a virtuous dick if you happpen upon the Booby at the local watering hole. The Booby just might knock you on your virtuous ass.

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