I have some views I would like to share on tourism. But it just so happens that David Foster Wallace has already written my thoughts in a way far more skillfully than I could ever hope to do. (See the rest of his essay
“Consider The Lobster” here).
As I see it, it probably really is good for the soul to be a tourist, even if it’s only once in a while. Not good for the soul in a refreshing or enlivening way, though, but rather in a grim, steely-eyed, let’s-look-honestly-at-the-facts-and-find-some-way-to-deal-with-them way.
My personal experience has not been that traveling around the country is broadening or relaxing, or that radical changes in place and context have a salutary effect, but rather that intranational tourism is radically constricting, and humbling in the hardest way—hostile to my fantasy of being a real individual, of living somehow outside and above it all.
(Coming up is the part that my companions find especially unhappy and repellent, a sure way to spoil the fun of vacation travel:) To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all noneconomic ways would be better, realer, without you.
It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to
confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing.
I experienced this very same thing in Dublin. I found that the city has been turned into a tourist paradise. It has pubs, shops, tours, and landmarks but I got the feeling that it is not Ireland as you may picture it. It has been capitalized.
By contrast as journeyed into the mountains I found that it was the idealized Irish country side and not genuine. I think David Foster Wallace is correct in saying that the pure presence of a tourist destroys the very
experience he is there for.
There is an theory in quantum physics that observing a phenomenon changes
the phenomenon. I believe the same holds for tourism.