How to make any tourism meaningful
Mark Twain, as he reveals in his Innocents Abroad
, is a first-class traveler in more than one way. In reference to our reading of Redfoot, one of our previous readings breaks downs tourism into four "classes" depending (basically) on how in-depth the traveler explores into the culture of their place of travel. Mark Twain surprisingly seems to fit into the first, or least adventurous class.
I say surprisingly because you would expect that a writer, someone who has a knack and interest for analyzing people's personalities and culture, would be aggressive as a traveler. But Mark Twain does many of the things modern "second class" travelers would not approve of: going on pre-planned ventures, going to well-known sites, not speaking much of the local language, and going in large groups with easy access to accommodations.
I wonder if part of the reason why Twain participated in this type of traveling that is now seen as cliche and less fulfilling is because in his time that kind of tourism was still novel (and people had not defamed it yet), or because that was really the only type of travel available. Wikipedia tells me that Innocents
was published in 1869, four years after the end of the Civil War. Was the type of trip he went on relatively new? When does "tourism" officially start in world history? What about in American history? I know that the wealthy of Europe went on a similar "Grand Tour" going back to the 18th century.
Nonetheless, unlike any of Redfoot's travelers, Twain seems to be an example of someone to whom the concept of "authenticity" is quite unimportant. Without this anxiety, and with his own unique ability to imaginatively examine his travels, he has experienced a form of travel more valuable than most "first order" tourism, and ended up becoming something of literary value.
Twain manages to turn things that would be relatively unimpressive to many people now--such as visiting the Notre Dame or hearing a bit of history in context--into flights of aesthetic imagination. Take this example of prose from when he hears about punishment in old Venice:
"Down below the level of the water, by
the light of smoking torches, we were shown the damp, thick-walled cells
where many a proud patrician's life was eaten away by the long-drawn
miseries of solitary imprisonment--without light, air, books; naked,
unshaven, uncombed, covered with vermin; his useless tongue forgetting
its office, with none to speak to; the days and nights of his life no
longer marked, but merged into one eternal eventless night; far away from
all cheerful sounds, buried in the silence of a tomb; forgotten by his
helpless friends, and his fate a dark mystery to them forever; losing his
own memory at last, and knowing no more who he was or how he came there..."
Interestingly, he also seems to find travel in a literal sense--that is, movement itself--to be of some sort of value (and I totally agree with him).
For example, when first sailing to Europe, he writes:
"However, there is always a cheering influence about the sea; and in my
berth that night, rocked by the measured swell of the waves and lulled by
the murmur of the distant surf, I soon passed tranquilly out of all
consciousness of the dreary experiences of the day and damaging
premonitions of the future."
I've always gotten a lot of pleasure out of simply moving far--on cars, buses, or trains. It seems to lubricate my mind and give my day a very immediate purpose. It must be integral to the joy of travel.