The motivations for travel don't have to revolve around what we normally think they do
Okay, here we go.
It looks like we're starting the class discussing what modern tourism is, why people become tourists, and what tourism is supposed to do for people. That seems like a good start, right?
Daniel Redfoot's "Touristic Authenticity..." deals with the previously mentioned questions by outlining different types of "travelers" (a term that he doesn't use, but which I find more neutral and applicable than "tourist"). As illuminating as the paper is, I can't help but feel that his analysis is overly pessimistic. For example, he calls anthropological documentation the "cannibalism of history."
Anyone who has ever done any type of traveling should come away from the article feeling a bit of awkwardness, for Redfoot brutally dissects almost any type of modern travel whatsoever. He is good at (subtly) pointing out the hypocrisies of each type of tourist, although he is much less disparaging of the "first order" or "general" tourist whom all other tourists seem to enjoy disparaging.
The negative analysis of this essay is due in part to his focus on tourist ethics grounded in the psychology of tourists themselves. I think that a more fruitful analysis would come from analyzing tourist practices, even if those practices tend to be tied to one type of tourist or another.
Even Redfoot seems to admit, when he is defending first order tourists, that tourism can be a fruitful activity regardless of motivation. What I think is more important than criticizing the motivations of others is to dispel misunderstanding and discourage bad behaviors among those people.
Take the following as an example. A "first order" family of tourists can go on a trip to France, do all of the most "touristy" things, but be respectful and leave little waste in their path. A bad anthropologist might suffer less from "inauthenticity" (in my opinion, at least) but still can cause great harm to a host society through sheer rudeness. I recall one early anthropologist (the name escapes me now) studying Canadian natives who rudely dressed in ceremonial rags and danced with native corpses that had never been dug up before, disrupting a long practice of keeping their ancestors mummified in the ground.
Again, the importance is more on bad behavior and cultural misunderstanding than one's motivations, although motivations can certainly be tied to the former two things.
I also find it strange that Redfoot (through Levi-Strauss) criticizes Mead's desire to document dying cultures as idealistic or foolish, a "Noah's ark" type of preservation that is of mythical fruitlessness. Even if the preserved information doesn't do exactly what Mead wants, I'm very hesitant to be critical of saving such information. (Some might say that information itself is always beneficial.)
To give an example, have you ever tried to study ancient Aztec culture? There are only four pre-colonial Aztec books remaining, because the Spanish burned the rest. Even if those extra books didn't give us a perfect idea of what Aztec civilization was like, I can think of many ways in which that information could be useful to the historians, anthropologists, philosophers, and dreamers of today.
Then again, I am an anthropology student who has had valuable travel experiences in the first two orders, and, to some extent (I would say) the latter two. Maybe that is why I come off as defensive.
As I've suggested already, I believe that the motivation for travel is usually neutral, although I do believe that certain types of travel, if people will perform them, are more rewarding than others. My ideal trip, depending on the location, can involve everything from leisure and photography to local immersion, exploration, adventure, or contact with nature, but
that these activities are most fruitful when coupled with the understanding that what one experiences is always a society at its present state. If one finds hints of the past--a cathedral, an ancient mountain site--they should still indulge in them, just realize that the window to the past is only so open. I hope that, with this realization in mind, I can salvage some idea of travel from Redfoot's claim that tourists are "damned if they do, damned if they don't" as they search for "authenticity."
I want people to look for valuable experience, whether that involves reflection upon the past or immersion in the present. The most valuable experience, to me, involves a healthy amount of both. To me, this "modified" tourist search has nothing to do with notions of "authenticity," unless authenticity is means nothing more than experiencing as much as you can from your world as it is
Iyer, the author of the second article, puts a similar point much more beautifully:
"...Travel, at heart, is just a quick way to keeping our minds mobile and awake
. As Santayana, the heir to Emerson and Thoreau...wrote, 'There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar; it keeps the mind nimble; it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor.'" Two great examples: "Romantic poets inaugurated an era of travel because they were the great apostles of open eyes. Buddhist monks are often vagabonds, in part because they believe in wakefulness..."