Kevin O’Faircheallaigh is 28 and in 2009 decided to abandon all domestic commitments and to have one last big adventure before the impending doom of 30. With that in mind, him and his partner packed an ambitiously small backpack each and headed out to spend a year exploring Asia and Europe, with a brief sojourn into North Africa.
Kevin writes: Funny sign spotting is a great little game for travelers to indulge in. Whether it’s the garden variety incorrect spelling, the sentence that contains all English words but seems to make no sense, or the simultaneously hilarious and terrifying ‘Beware Fierce Monkeys’ sign at Erawan Falls, anyone who’s been overseas knows the joys and dangers of cross language communication.
There are signs that we saw in Chiang Mai recently that have piqued my interest for an entirely different reason. They advertise non-tourist tours for those of us who are traveling but wish to escape the crowds, promising to take us on a day long trip ‘with no tourists’ and ‘excellent sights’.
The marketing strategy I cannot fault. Tapping into the self loathing of overseas journey-makers could prove a cash cow. Anyone who’s been packed into the ferry at Koh Tao with 300 sweating, smoking, sunburnt, shirtless slobs would understand the desperate need for escapism.
And upon seeing an American explode over being asked to move into his ASSIGNED seat on a bus, or an Italian woman berate a young store vendor because she doesn’t understand her (I can tell you why she doesn’t understand Italian, it’s because you lost the war) who amongst us hasn’t looked away and muttered under our breath “fucking tourists”.
But there is a paradox here. Firstly, amazing sites are generally packed with tourists because they are amazing. I’m sure there are still some easily visited locations that are awe inspiring and quiet all year round, but for the most part, if you want to hit the island beaches, you best be clearing some towel space for Hans from continental Europe and his new pair of fishnet speedo juniors.
So unless they take you to an empty field with a half starved buffalo and a power station, I’m guessing there will be tourists there. Not only that, but seeing as ALL tourists want to escape other tourists, when you board that bus full of hope at seeing like minded travellers you’re bound to be disappointed. It’s going to be the same budgie smuggler sporting, cigar chomping jerks you saw at the cooking school and the tiger park (in the interest of disclosure, we did not attend cooking schools or tiger parks, largely because there was no non-tourist option).
So unfortunately for the time being, I think non-tourist tourism, along with communism and picking Sarah Palin as your VP candidate, will have to be relegated to the great dustbin of ideas-that-work-well-in-theory.