Recently I met someone who has the onerous job of helping first-time European tourists ease themselves into India. And who thought the job was ‘somewhere between being a Baby Sitter and a Brain Doctor’. Other than the fact that the phrase has a nice ring to it, it made me think about Tourism (you’d have thought that I have had enough, but obviously not).
I think this neat phrase actually captures the essential difference between the modern Tourist and the intrepid Traveller.
Tourists go to a new place to wonder at how different it all is. The idea is to somehow get to a point where you feel lost, baby-like and in constant need of looking after. And a whole paraphernalia has developed to cosset you in this place. Resorts, guides, concierges, charter flights – the works. The more I think about this, the more I can see its attraction. In a world that demands a lot from each person, a ‘touristy holiday’ is exactly what you need. To leave the cares of existence and move to the cossetting of childhood. In such a situation, I can see how the Baby Sitter idea works.
The Brain Doctor comes in when you meet Travellers. Travellers ‘go away’ for exactly the opposite reason. They go to conquer. Not for them the innocent pleasure of regression. They want to know about a place, its history, its mores, its people, its cabbies, its underbelly. They want to know a place so well, they can soon almost call it their own. Carrying this train of thought further, Travellers clearly are from the same cultural/genetic/orientation pool as Genghis Khan, except they travel alone and generally do not behead the vanquished. But the self-absorbed need to conquer is evident. And, it is for such people, that the Guide becomes a Brain Doctor.