we dont all travel for that authentic experience
As much as I feel like I am an extranjero
here (an outsider) I don’t know how I feel about the word ‘tourist’. Over my time here I have encountered a lot of viajeros
, real travellers. My cousin and his friends, who are from Israel and have been travelling in South America for about four months, passed by Buenos Aires and I went to their hostel a few times to say hi. In their common room I started talking to about twenty different young travelers, all making their way either up north or down south. They all asked me questions like, “Where did you come from and where are you going? We are heading to Ushuaia do you want to come?” and that’s when I got the gripping realization…I am stuck here in Buenos Aires..after all I am still a student, not a traveler.
When I got my week of liberty during Spring Break I encountered even more of these viajeros
and for a short week I got to feel like one of them, lugging my large backpack around, buying groceries and cooking at the hostel to save money, travelling by bus, being in the sun for hours, re-wearing the same clothes, and changing places by the day in order to be able to see as many colorful mountains, waterfalls, and small pueblos as I can. I remember talking to the 25 year old owner of the hostel I was staying at in Tilcara, a small village in the province of Jujuy. He had invited his guests in the hostel to take a night walk with him to his friend’s small house in the mountains in celebration of the full moon. On the walk back to the village, I asked him about the type of people he receives at his hostel in general and if older people ever came to stay there. He contested that when older people come, they are usually older people with younger spirits, and that sometimes when older people come that he can tell would not fit the vibe he tells them there is nor more room. “All I do is give people soap, a bed, and breakfast, that’s all. And sometimes I can tell that some people who come expect a certain service that I do not provide, and I would rather not host them, because I know that they would only have complaints.” Additionally he told me, “I prefer to host travelers (viajeros) rather than tourists. Travelers never complain. I have travelled to Bolivia, Peru, Guatamala, Venezuela, Brazil, and I have stayed in some hostels where there is not even hot water. I know the place that I have here is very nice,” he told me. I have to agree that it was one of the nicest hostels I had stayed in during that trip.
It made me think about what he was trying to tell me. As I met more people, I realized he was right. The traveler needs a place to sleep and shower that is just another one of his transitory homes. The tourist is looking for a ‘hotel experience’, the tourist wants to feel like a guest.
There is something very interesting in this distinction between the viajero,
the tourist, and then…the student? The temporary resident? The extranjero
like me? I don’t know how I would really be classified in Buenos Aires.
What is it that the viajero
is in search for and how does it differ from the others? What is it that he wants to see or accomplish in his travelers? For the traveler, travelling becomes his occupation, not a vacation. He knows that he is now a vagabond. He is travelling in order to feel homeless, and to fully enter a state of constant unfamiliarity that is as far as you can get from the cotidiano.
McCannel says that that “sightseers are motivated by a desire to see life as it is really lived, even to get in with the natives, and, at the same time, they are deprecated for always failing to achieve these goals. The term “tourist is increasingly used as a derisive label for someone who seems content with his obviously inauthentic experiences” (592). In my opinion, it really all depends on what kind of ‘sightseer’ you are. We students came here to speak and befriend Portenos, study their history and language, and live amongst them in their city, with intentions to really seek the “authentic experience”. Travelers however, viajeros
like my cousin know all too well that as tourists who migrate by the day they will not gain any sense of real life in the places they travel. They are happy with obviously inauthentic experiences because they know that is all they can get as outsiders. They are not in search of knowing the “real Buenos Aires” or the real Argentine, but rather they want see beautiful landscapes, and walk through foreign villages in which everything is different. I think that McCannel’s “back-front ditchonomy” holds true in life in general as well as in tourism, however not every type of tourist is in search of seeking a view from the back. It is true that all tourists want to see things that are foreign to them, however the way that they look at these things and what they think of them completely varies from one type of tourist to another.