Post-tourism is what the the mobile age brings to the travelling world. It’s a by-product of technology rather than tourism industry. Like everything else, travel and tourism industry is simply adapting and reshaping itself as the world shrinks to the size of a smartphone screen. Post-tourism was impossible 20 years ago. The story of people like Ben Schlappig won’t be possible either. Yet we’re here. Well, given the ever-expansive nature of technology, it’s not that surprising, really.
With that in mind, we can expect that tourism in the next 10 years will change also, depending on the technology and, more importantly, the kind of predominant smart gadgets we will have at that time.
It’s like the trending word in the travelling world right now. Post-tourists are mainly
hipsters travellers who resent all the popular travel destinations and avoid “touristy” places at all cost. They’re these hardcore glocal lifestyle promoters who prefer to ditch the map (who needs a map when you have a smartphone?), get lost in nowhere; do not think twice before upsetting their tummy with super-spicy local foods; exposing themselves to the risk of malaria to hunt down exotic tattoo. All in the name of searching for the ultimate authentic experiences. In fact, the term post-tourist may upset them more than those spicy rendang did to their stomach. If there’s anything that they resent more than the tourist traps, it’s being called a tourist. For them, it’s the ultimate politically incorrect move to call a traveller (as they consider themselves) as a tourist. Don’t ask me why.
Either that, or it simply refers to the people who move to Berlin like this guy said:
The post-tourist is the person that settles in Berlin (or wants to) after spending some time here while not having residency in the city. The city has made such an impression on him/her that every effort will be made to try to extend this experience as much as possible.
But let’s forget about Berlin.
By definition, post-tourists are the hybrid between regular tourists and temporary residents. They stay a bit longer than most vacationers. The duration is long enough for them to make several visa runs to nearby country, but not that long to gain permanent resident status. They’re not necessarily expats since they may or may not doing work while staying.
If travellers can be categorized based on a) the duration of staying b) the area they cover during that duration c) the level of interaction with local people and culture during that duration, using the same parameters, post-tourists are those who: 1) are well-versed in city areas and places worth to visit, but also how to get there from a random point 2) travel to other cities and spend some time in those cities (optional) 3).
date a local has some local friends and somehow are involved in their daily live and 4). just don’t leave…
Oh, crap. I’ve just described all the foreigners in Canggu, haven’t I?
What does it mean by the way? And why post-tourists crave it so much? The answer may lies in the exclusivity mentality. Post-tourists no longer want the sight-seeing type of tourism (or so it seems), or to stay in conventional accommodation for that matter. They want something exclusive (not necessarily expensive) only a few can enjoy. Think of those indie kids in the age of mainstream music.
All the landmarks in the world, their meanings have been reduced to mere backdrop for selfies and group shots that people do just to
brag show where they are. These views, whereas almost all structures, natural or man-made are stripped down from their meaning and diluted to the point where their physical existence barely matters and exist only to serve as objects of abuse through numerous reproductions via social media, represent the post-tourists’ believe. And such is the era we’re living in.
They want a real experience, these post-tourists. However, as far as tourism is concerned, there’s no such thing as real and authentic. At least according to this guy. It’s all been done before, simulated, rehearsed, done and repeated. The only “real” place offering authentic experience would be too foolish to visit.
What? Don’t believe me? Let me ask you then.
What is more authentic than being chased by a hungry, mature, mean-looking komodo dragon in Pulau Komodo? If such prospect isn’t scary enough, imagine if it happens in the water (yep, those prehistoric living relics swim and they swim fast). What is more thrilling than screaming your lungs off, lying flat on the ground, while a group of militia shooting their AKs at your general direction in Afghanistan or Syria (or other conflict areas)? What is more challenging than eating fiery curry so spicy it has potential to burn a hole on your throat? You know, stuffs like that? Not to mention story like Matthew Miller, who–following his determination to see North Korea beyond its touristy places, if there’s such thing to be honest–wanted to spend his time in North Korea prison and got just that.
See? The only authentic experience left is the one too foolish to do.
(Hm…on second thought, that can be interesting…tourism in conflict areas? Why not? It can be a very lucrative business. I bet there’s a lot of people who wants to experience war zone first hand and are willing to pay for it)
So it comes to what’s available between the extremes.
Now that authentic experience in all its ideal is proven to be impossible to achieve, the future of travelling needs to rely on something else. Something challenging but not as stupid. Although the quality is not that authentic in the very sense of that word, such experience is acceptable enough even for the most ardent promoter of authentic experience. Let’s call this one, adaptive experience.
As the name suggests, it’s something that you’ve never experienced before but you can learn and grow accustomed to (or not, according to this article, but at least you try). Haggling price at local market. Cooking local foods. Learning local language (to be used when haggling) and so on and so forth are a start. Including, but not limited to, bottoms up-ing that alcoholic beverages the name of which you can’t pronounced correctly, even when you’re sober.
Travelling is not about the place you visit anymore. It’s no longer about putting markers marked as “visited” on the map, collecting stamps on your passport and checking the checklists for every city you visit. It’s about
humblebragging it to your friends and families the experience you gain and all the efforts you do to make it meaningful to your life.
An adaptive travelling experience is one that encourage interactions with the locals. It calls out for the experimental you in terms of accommodation, based on place, type and facilities (That big water container inside the bathroom of traditional Indonesian house with a small funny looking apparatus? That is not a bathtub. I repeat, not a bathtub. Whatever you think that is, don’t get inside!) It is not life threatening nor hazardous to your health by default, and is something that enrich your life in a way beyond your daily routines.
Travelling heightens our experiences. That explains why you’re likely to learn something while you’re away from home; something about life. Even though this lesson is available on your way to school or to your office back home, you’re more receptive to it if it’s coming from local wisdom in the place that you visited. Why? It’s waaaay cooler that’s why.
Travel will, if not already has, become a lifestyle. That wanderlust “epidemic” is happening to the people living in tourism destinations too. Those who are never travel will travel, and frequent travellers will only travel more often. Soon, travelling will become two-ways traffics between any given two countries in the world instead of one directional (from wealthy country) like all these years.
This is the future we are heading.
To sum things up, here’s what travel in the future will be:
Citizens of New York have long complained about UN diplomats and invitees (they’re political tourists if there’s any) occupying all the best restaurants (and parking spots) during lunch time for power lunch and God knows what. Now, thanks to AirBnB, they have to compete with the post-tourists too for cheap rentals and apartments. Citizens of Berlin have complained about the American hipsters (the aforementioned Berlin’s post-tourists) who have invaded their beloved city and are trying their best to imitate Berliner’s way of life (and treat the city like their 52nd state). In Indonesia, “expats” are paid 300-1000% more than the locals with the same job description. Just recently, some pioneering surfers collaboratively lamented about the negative impacts of surfing culture to Indonesia islands and beaches.
Let’s face it. Every kind of tourism is problematic. Although the problem is not entirely new, the scale of which in the future will make it something unprecedented before. If no one in this industry (that includes the travellers too) learn from the past mistakes, I guess we all can say goodbye to the responsible and ethical travelling we all are looking forward to. Rough time is inevitable. However, this is to be expected. So, brace yourself for the impact. When all the dusts settle down, we’ll have a real chance to do something to this world.
I’ll let my poetic side concludes this post.
|I shall be telling this with a sigh|
|Somewhere ages and ages hence:|
|Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—|
|I took the one less traveled by,|
|And that has made all the difference.|
It’s a piece of Robert Frost’s seminal poem, “The Road Not Taken” (1916); arguably the most famous poem in English-speaking world and the most misinterpreted at the same time. Contrary to popular opinions, this poem is not about looking back with pride, reminiscing the choices and the deeds that the narrator had done that made him successful. Instead, this poem is about indecision. At least that’s what Frost intended.
“It’s a tricky poem,” he said.
For the purpose of this post, however, let’s say the popular opinion is right; that it’s indeed about doing something anti-mainstream, to go against the flow, to go down the road that less travelled by, an allegory for a path someone take to test their determination, to show their mettle that in turn make all the differences.
I once believed that music is the only thing that can bring difference to the world we’re living in. But I guess I was wrong. Music has been around for quite some time and look, people like Donald Trump still running for presidency.
I guess, the true salvation lies in travelling. Travel enables people to see the world with their own eyes, to experience first-hand what otherwise can only be seen from some biased reports. It enables cultural exchange, economic mutuality and, above all, it creates understanding on individual level about other people, other cultures, politics, history, environmental and social awareness and so on. Given that documenting their journeys and sharing their experience are second nature to travellers, their stories are this well of knowledge from which we can take inspiration and act accordingly.
There’s much more in travelling than seeing new places, working remotely or as a way to escape from your daily routines. There’s much more in what a traveller can do other than take pictures of the food they’re going to eat, because in another spectrum, there are those who do something more like what Daniel Elber do in Munti Gunung, Karangasem, Bali and Claude Graves do in Sumba.
And this is just a beginning…