Monday, August 4, 2008

Travel Wanking

Here's a hilarious blog post from the Sydney Morning Herald's website about "travel wanking". Anyone who has accumulated a few rare visa stamps in their passport or kipped in fleabag hostels around the world has likely been a victim of—and probably an indulger in—travel wanking: the unselfconscious one-upmanship of dueling road tales, travel as an accumulation of arcane experiences with which globe-trotters can bully fellow travelers with their superior tastes.

Of course, it's always travel not tourism—the latter is what other, less sophisticated people do. (Full disclosure: I've surely wanked about my own travels more than a few times; apologies to anyone who has ever suffered from the vanity of my past voyages.) One of my favourite postcards, given to me by a colleague, sketches a man in a suit riding a camel past the pyramids. He declares to his companion: "I'm a traveler, not a tourist." Beside him a thought bubble rises from the head of an ambulatory Egyptian: "Another cultural imperialist!"

That's a distinction that the true travel wanker has uttered at some point in his or her post-trip recollections: "I'm a traveler, not a tourist."


And be sure to read the comments thread that follows the blog for further evidence that travel wanking, to paraphrase Jonathan Swift, is a mirror in which the wanker sees everyone but himself.

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