Has Travel Become Another Exercise in Narcissism?
I’m sorry Expedia, but it sure as hell doesn’t make you more interesting
“Travel yourself interesting…”
The concept invaded my consciousness as only an insidious radio advert can.
I was on a South London bus, headphones firmly implanted to drown out the school-kids’ Friday morning hullabaloo, when amongst the usual litany of shouty commercials came the sound of waves and seagulls.
A soothing voiceover inquired: “Why be Andy Nuttall when you can be…” and suddenly there arose the voice of Andy himself, assaulting my eardrums in a strangled underwater scream that proclaimed his name in affirmatory joy: “…A-N-D-Y N-U-T-T-A-L-L?!?”
Then came that slogan: “Travel yourself interesting,” and here was the rub — the once tedious Mr. Nuttall had been injected with an ebullient charisma by way of a simple trip abroad.
As I pondered this seductive message, part of a tongue-in-cheek promotional campaign by internet travel company Expedia, one question nagged: if travel makes you interesting, why are so many ‘travellers’ such a bore?
Anyone who’s spent a fair amount of time in the world’s hostel dormitories will have met the culprit. He sits there on the bottom bunk, emaciated tanned limbs protruding from a Bintang vest and a pair of baggy pyjama trousers printed with a flailing dragon, and then he starts to witter. Whether you like it or not, you are hearing his story, each twist in the narrative prefaced by the dread-refrain: “when I was in…”
He’s been away for two months, spent most of it dancing on the beach addled on diet pills and Sangsom sets—perhaps punctuated by a week of hungover volunteering building a retaining wall that is destined to collapse within a year. His destination’s merits can all be surmised with the brain-dead epithet “amazing”; the natives were “so friendly”. But this facsimile, off-the-peg experience has invested him with unprecedented insight into Thailand’s society—indeed, into the very essence of the human…