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experience

The other day Rebecca and I spent close to an hour watching a video where a solo cyclist documented his 6-month travels through Mexico. At the end of the recording, after summarizing all the beautiful things that he had experienced, he finished by saying that what he shared was not in fact Mexico, that instead it was only what he had experienced – a snapshot (my words, not his) – and I assume, implying that the country was so much more. That, in my opinion, was an extremely astute observation, and one that some travelers, and many tourists fail to grasp.

‎”Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux‎

Just a brief snapshot

We have numerous friends that are involved with the tourism industry, and in the islands, cruise ships can be a big part of that. Some of our friends provide day tours on land, while others take people out to enjoy boating excursions. I have to wonder how many of their guests, after completing a whirlwind tour of a destination, feel that they have obtained some sort of grasp of what a place is really like, and more importantly, what its people are really like!

The two of us have long since operated under the belief that until we have spent at least an entire month on an island, and travelled around it extensively, we can’t even begin to grasp what it’s really like. I suspect that, even then, our impression is extremely limited.

experience

I don’t want to just pick on cruise ships, because those who travel to gated, all-inclusive resorts, and we’ve been among them, could be equally guilty of what I’m describing. 

Martinique, where we are now, is a great example of a place that has continued to grow on us as we’ve spent more time here. And believe me, that has nothing to do with us acquiring any ability to speak French, the native language, because that certainly hasn’t happened. We struggle to communicate properly every day, but in spite of that, we are treated with courtesy and respect.

Be careful where you get your info!

My thoughts on this subject were all brought into focus this week when I read several unrelated comments from folks who were stating disparaging “facts” about countries that they likely know next to nothing about. Perhaps they had read news reports about the areas, or had completed one of those whirlwind cruise ship trips that I mentioned above. However their beliefs were formed, their comments were riddled with gross exaggerations and misinformation, and they stated opinion as if it was fact. This is sad because I’m certain that some people – those with less experience – might take their statements as gospel.

While everyone is, of course, entitled to their own opinion, I think we would all be better served if we could operate more like the young man whose video I mentioned at the beginning of the post, understanding that our experience, no matter how vast, is simply that, our experience, not an all-encompassing reality. It should then go without saying that the more limited our experience is, the more this is true.

The video above is the one that I referenced in the post. It may make more sense to visit the Youtube channel to watch the video that precedes this one, also focused on Mexico, first.

4 Comments

  1. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion” rarely seems to follow anything good, in my opinion. The one exception being Big Lebowski quoting.

  2. Well spoke, Mike. When I was in WSU, doing my Masters in Human Development, I was told by my department that the rule of thumb was six months of total immersion in a culture. It was felt that was the least amount of time for a researcher to be able to have enough depth of understanding concerning that culture, to be able to ask intelligent questions. BTW – Hope you and Rebecca have an awesome journey.

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