Oh, The Places You’ll Go

In The Art of Travel, Paris, 7. Free topic by Tessa3 Comments

I feel like I haven’t talked much about my travels outside of Paris thus far on this blog, so I want to dedicate this post to exploring some of my travels and some of my upcoming trips.  So far I have been to Milan, Italy, Verona, Italy, Munich Germany, Arles, France, Baux-de-Provence, France, and Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France (as well as Paris, of course).  Each of these destinations has been extremely interesting and tons of fun.  I think the coolest thing about studying in Europe is having the ability to travel all over, going to brand new places each weekend and thus experiencing different cultures each weekend.  Going from eating pasta and pizza while sweating in the hot sun in Italy one weekend, to sleeping in a tent, drinking beer and eating pretzels in Germany the next weekend, I have the unique ability to absorb these experiences as a learning lesson.  Whether this lesson means realizing which destinations I love and want to go back to, like Munich, or whether this lesson is realizing the effects tourism has had on a town, like in Verona or Arles, each experience is working to form my own individual abroad experience.

It was actually kind of sad and chilling going to towns like Verona or Arles because of the way they exist now.  They are preserved so strongly as tourist destinations that there is now no faint glimmer of the people or culture that once existed in these locations.  In Verona, for example, the town exists solely for tourist purposes.  Rarely did I see a local who had a home there.  The streets were crowded by tourists craning their neck to get a good view of Juliet’s home or the ruins of the miniature Colosseum that still stands.  It was really sad to see such a beautiful place- a place that once existed for its people, establishing a genuine culture that was evident through the museums and the cuisine- taken over by tourists and the money that tourism brings into the town.  Because of this monetary incentive, towns like Verona and Arles have capitalized on the once great, historical aspects of the city.  They advertise these locations, like Juliet’s House or the town where Van Gogh once lived, in order to make money for the towns, but, in the process, lose the very heart and soul that make the town so special.  The town loses its history, its culture, and, as this happens, it begins to lose its people too, until it becomes a ghost town, existing solely for tourism purposes.

There are pros and cons to tourism, but this effect is such an overwhelming con that it sometimes makes it hard for me to travel to these places.  Of course I want to see the world and make the most of this unparalleled experience I have been granted during this semester, but the idea of tourism drastically changing the heart of a landscape will always exist in the back of my mind.  As a tourist to these places, I have to try and work with the landscape, the people, and the culture, so as to not completely alter the ways in which these landscapes and societies function, but to instead try and respectfully fall into the stride of the city.  Not only will this serve as a means to respect the place and its culture, but it will also try to preserve this heart of the landscape.  This is definitely a big task to take on, and I’m still trying to work out how to do this, but I think having the intention to work with the landscape is a good place to start.  I think we should all be more mindful of our travels and the locations we are travelling to, instead of just thinking about ourselves and how much fun we are going to have on our vacation.  It could really make a huge impact.


(Image: Verona, Italy; Source: Tessa Lechleider)

Comments

  1. Hi Tess, I also see the effect that you refer to in Florence, a city that has just 383,083 residents but is visited by 10.3 million people a year. It is hard sometimes to wade through all of the tourist attractions to try to get to the authentic Tuscan experience, especially when it comes to restaurants. However, in the restaurant case, I’ve come to realize that honestly, no matter where I go I’ll be eating food that tastes good and is Italian, so eating at a restaurant that caters to tourists sometimes is not the end of the world. I’ve been trying to get a mix of experience in to see both sides of the city. It’s hard, sometimes, but the search is worth it. – Sam

  2. I understand what you mean by feeling slightly disappointed not to get an authentic experience when traveling. I am always hesitant to call myself a tourist because it comes with a certain commercial connotation to it. I want to be a visitor or a friend, an explorer. I love museums and history, but I also just want to get an authentic experience of the places I visit. While studying abroad, it’s hard not to view visiting other cities and countries as ticking places off a list but as experiencing as much of the world as you’re able. I want to value everywhere I visit for what it is and was, but with all the tourist attractions it’s definitely hard to get an idea of what exactly that is.

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