A horse walks into a bar…
If you‘ve been following me on Facebook, you already know me a bit. And some of you might ask: „Why are you so bloody pessimistic? Why do you have to swear so much? Why do you have such a bad temper? Why do you drag everything and everyone through the mire? Why is there so much sarcasm in your articles?” Well, in this article I’ll try to explain all that, because, in the end, I am not pessimistic at all, I don’t hate the universe, humanity, or, you.
The Quest for Consensus
The internet is teeming with opinions. No matter what you are looking for, no matter what kind of sick fetish you have, on the internet you will find equal-minded people. Horse enthusiasts will find the most heartbreaking stories in the latest online issue of “British horse”, terrorists can read up on suicide belts on instructables, and Nazis find recommendations for the latest fashion in hair style.
But does the Internet really have it ALL? Or are there exceptions?
If you read bike-travel-blogs and scroll through the Facebook pages of long-term travel-cyclists one thing you will notice that everything is uber-awesome there. Everyone is happy, you look into nothing but smiling faces and people love each other. One gets the impression that, as soon as you mount a bike, the whole world becomes pure bliss.
The fact that after five hours on a straight road, the saddle has squashed your balls into pulp, your sitbones feel like freshly minced meat, and the pain in your back has slowly crept through your kidney and is throbbing behind your left ear now, are things you’ll not be reading on those blogs. Because nobody wants to read about this. But why is that the case?
If you are watching a travel documentary the things you most probably want to see are dream beaches, pristine nature and authentic indigenes performing centuries-old traditional dances as if they had never seen a person from the civilised world in their life. And if there is one thing that you don’t want to see as a tourist, it is other tourists.
Tourists are tourist’s worst nightmare because they debunk their own image of authenticity. Other tourists turn the dream beach into spring break debauchery, they transform pristine nature into an arranged theme park and they convert traditional dances into a soulless Punch-and-Judy show.
What many people fail to see is that tourism is just that and nothing else. If the camera in the travel documentary panned around you’d be able to see the armada of 20-storey tourist bunkers next to the dream beach, the rubbish dump next to the stinking palm-oil factory next to pristine nature, and the wall of iPhones and DSLR cameras trying to capture authenticity made flesh for the photo album back home.
Raise the curtain!
Especially when travelling long term, after a while, the act of travelling becomes an integral part of you. It just happens without you noticing. It becomes a part of your daily routine. If this happens, the veil of tourist-delusion begins to raise. You start to see beyond the curtain. And part of what you’ll see there is misery, oppression and bondage.
Iranian hospitality is not just unconditional kindness but also the cultural obligation of offering it. Chinese travel security is in part made possible by an authoritarian surveillance state. And Thailand’s dream beaches are governed by a military junta that incarcerates people for perfidious reasons. But these are things the travel documentary doesn’t talk about. Because no one wants to know. Least of all when thinking about the next holiday destination.
Of Yin and Yang
Sure! Cycling around the world for months is an adventure like no other. Sure! I have many moments of bliss. And when I have them, I don’t want to know about the world’s problems. Sure as hell! I wouldn’t want to miss a single experience, a single day of my trip, although I’d miss some of them only in retrospect.
But still, or maybe exactly because of these reasons, as a counterweight to the hundreds of blogs where the world is still in order, as the antipole to the myriad of pictures of smiling faces and happy people, I want to show the other side.
So, every time someone flames me in a commentary, every time someone tells my that nobody wants to read about my diarrhoea, every time one of my readers asks himself why I posted another photo of a rubbish dump, I know that I did it right, I know that I made him think, I know why I am proud of every single person who reads my blog.
In this spirit: Fuck you! And have a nice day.