Tag Archives: travel the world

Lame travellers

Egotourism – Putting the You in Travel

Travel FacesWhen I was a kid, I used to sit on the floor of my grandmother’s single wide trailer and look at her collection of National Geographics.  My grandfather was usually away in Sumatra, Iraq, Hong Kong, Norway or somewhere else – and I would look through the magazines trying to find stories about the places he was visiting.

I suppose, like many kids, National Geographic was my introduction to world travel and the fact that there was more to the world than just the little mountain town we lived in.  That yellow border and all those huge fold out maps, not to mention the full color pictures in the magazines laid my path out ahead of me, though I didn’t know it until much later.  The funny thing is, I can remember tons of those stories but I can’t tell you who wrote them. Not a single one of them – they may have been the stories of great expeditions, new discoveries, or something else – but they weren’t egotourism.

I should define that term – maybe the best example would be the now very famous viral video by Matt Harding “Where the hell  is Matt?”

Egotourism is the kind of writing, film, travel, or blogging that puts the person doing the reporting first. In the video above, the focus really isn’t on the places so much as on the fact that Matt is in all of them. There’s a huge difference between this kind of thing and the National Geographics I used to look at. Those were about the people, the places, the history, the culture – today, when I look at a lot of travel blogs – what I really see is the ego ahead of all the rest of it. Let’s get it clear – I’m guilty of it – this site started out as my personal adventures – My name is Vago and this site is called Vagobond, maybe it’s not as direct as ‘Nomadic Matt’ or ‘Adventurous Kate’ or “Johnny Vagabond” but the intent was certainly the same – as time has gone on, I’ve tried to put much less focus on me and more on the travel – some of those others have too, but there is plenty of Ego-Tourism out there still.

What am I doing here?I remember that when I walked around the Island of Oahu, I thought it would be newsworthy and was surprised when no one really cared – it was only 130 miles, after all. Same with hitching across Canada with only $2 – it was a stunt – or rather- it was something I was doing that I tried to make into a stunt but without much success. Since that time, I’ve seen people doing far more adventurous, dangerous, silly, or just plain insane things.

Rolf Potts went around the world with no baggage (and did it the smart way with sponsorship first), I met two guys who walked across America dressed as Spanish monks (I have no idea why – they weren’t monks, they were using twitter to pick up girls and getting hammered every step of the way – maybe they were monks), I met a guy riding a unicycle from Egypt to South Africa (no idea if he made it or not), I’ve met plenty of hikers, cyclists, walkers, runners, buskers, and solo sailors and while I love the circus aspect of ego-tourism and the spectacle of the ‘Hey, look at me in this crazy spot doing this crazy thing!” – I’m also a little bothered by it. It can get ugly very fast – someone pointed me to a website of a guy who is ‘fucking his way across every country in Africa’ which is nothing short of sexploitation at it’s very worst and degradation on top of it.

I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here except, I have become a bit weary of the egos in travel. I’ve become a bit jaded about the reasons people are traveling and in some cases, I’ve decided that travel just isn’t worth it because you have to deal with the travelers. The tourists are fine, but the travelers tend to be so focused on themselves and how much better they are than everyone else that it is just unpleasant to be around them.

Lame travellers

The old Turk is far more interesting than this backpacker....

I have a friend that went to Petra recently and she told me that she met no less than fifteen people who described their profession as travel bloggers, five travel writers, and a few travel photographers. She was only there for a week! One thing for sure, it made me scratch Petra off the list of places I want to go right away. Those might be the coolest, nicest people in the world, but more likely they would be like the couple I sat near on the public ferry yesterday going up the Golden Horn – on his backpack was a 5 inch square that said ‘Don’t touch me Bitch’ – both of them had thousand dollar cameras and took pictures each step of the way and as they spoke loudly, I got to overhear their conversation – it was so incredibly petty and I just wanted to shake them and say “Stop talking for a second and look at those six schoolkids throwing stones from that rusty bridge!” or “Hey, look at that old Turkish man over there cleaning out his boat. How long do you think he’s owned it? Wow – wouldn’t he make a better picture than the Galata Tower?” – but I didn’t. They wouldn’t have liked it and frankly, it’s none of my business. As I said, I’m guilty too – but perhaps not that guilty. At least I hope not.

It’s just a bit sad. One of the reasons I love the Sahara is because I remember sitting at Moha’s mom’s house eating her homemade date syrup and a huge loaf of desert khobz. Turkey is special for those hikes in Manisa with everyday Turks who told me “If you see food, help yourself, just be ready to run!” I was in those places, doing those things, but what made them special were the people, the land, the texture. Perhaps, I’m simply becoming disillusioned as the texture of travel starts to feel like people are laying their texture over the top of the local texture, the big travel egos end up blotting out the texture of the local ways, and the spectacle eats up the experiential.

Anyway, that’s what I’m doing here this week – in my mind. In terms of my body, I am back in Morocco playing with my infant daughter, hugging my beautiful wife, and enjoying the tastes and smells of this place that I sometimes wish my own big travel ego didn’t forget to notice is really quite nice.

Capadocia baloons

Tell Your Tale – Who are you? Where have you been? Why did you go?

Capadocia baloons

I am very curious about you. Thousands of visitors come to Vagobond each day and the truth is, I’ve been wondering about you for a while.

Who are you? Where have you been? Why did you go? Why do you travel?

I really want to know. The readers who I’ve met personally or had contact with via the internet are invariably an interesting bunch of travelers. There was the Australian woman I met in Istanbul who was telling me about how excited she was to be going to Bulgaria. I mentioned that I had been there and it turned out she already knew (but she didn’t know it was me!) She and her sister were traveling through the Balkans, Turkey and the Middle East to celebrate her 60th birthday and they were doing an amazing amount of trekking, cultural exchange, and even some couch surfing. I hope when I’m 60 I have that much vim and vigor.

I met my friend Mike through Vagobond and we discovered that we actually had couch surfed with some of the same people in the United States and Canada. The world really is small. Rob and Vicky retired from South Africa and bought a sailboat which they have now lived on for nearly six years while sailing all over the world. Melissa Ruttanai contacted me through the site and has since become a great friend and a regular contributer as she and her husband Neil travel all over the world. And the stories go on and on….now, I want to know about you. What’s your story?

As I mentioned last Friday, my focus is shifting from travel to family for a while and while I’ll still be writing, editing, and contributing to Vagobond, the focus of this site is changing. I would really like it to focus on you, your travels, your favorite places, and your tales. If you’d like to contribute a guest post, contact me to get our writer guidelines.

If writing a feature seems too much, just take a second to comment below and introduce yourself. I really do want to know you….

Who are you?
What do you know?
What do you want to know?
What do you want to see?
What are some features you would like to see?
Where are some places you’d like to see stories about?

travel in the renaissance

History of Travel: Travel During the Renaissance

Travel hasn’t always been widespread. During the ancient times, it was much more limited. Back then there were no cheap flights, no budget hotels, no round the world tickets, and no organized tours. Still, people did travel.

There was limited travel throughout the Renaissance period. The locals only went to trade, buy, and sell between markets. Farmers lacked resources and money to travel long distances. The roads were also dangerous to walk in because of big rocks, uneven surface and robbers waiting for strangers to be captured in their traps. Only the rich could afford to travel in distant places with soldiers around them to ensure safety.

travel in the RenaissanceTownsmen usually traveled by walking because this is the most convenient way to reach short destinations. The wealthy and middle class people traveled with horses, pack mules, wagons, and coaches. Another transportation used by the rich people was horses. It was fast and appropriate for long distances. Travelers had to check that the horses were young capable of traveling in long distances.

Travel in the Renaissance Resources

Your Travel Guide to Renaissance Europe
Eyewitness Renaissance
South India through Renaissance Eyes
The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

travel in the renaissanceDuring the Renaissance period, inns flourished for travelers to lodge in. The inns were unsanitary but expensive. Travelers had to share a single bed. This was unhygienic because travelers might be contaminated with illness, odor, and lice by other travelers. Of course, it was probably warmer. Sleeping in inns was really dirty. Camping was better but dangerous.

Sea Travel

Trade in different countries was improving. Traveling in the sea was popular during this period. Travelers were usually merchants, students, missionaries, pilgrims, and soldiers. Pilgrimage contributed to the improvement of the economy. They sold souvenirs, metallic items and candles during their travel. Transporting by ship was suitable when traveling to other lands. Sea travel could also cause severe danger to travelers. Pirates were abundant to wreck a ship and storms caused massive waves that resulted in complete destruction.

In the Western part of Europe, boats were used for transportation in canals, rivers, and lakes. Boats were faster than land transportation. Rivers weren’t really very good because low water level during a very hot weather is no good for a boat.

Traveling to different marketplace and lands became famous mainly because of trade, exploration, and economy. Bulk items that are occasionally exported are spices, textiles, grain, and cattle. Merchants often traveled in roads using large wagons and caravans for protection. Trade was significant because it increased the economy of the towns. It was also a form of communication for other settlers. It was the sailors of the Renaissance Era who introduced Asian spices to the European economy.

The good news is that you don’t live in the Renaissance.