A recent article from the New York Timesreported on the Paris tourism board’s attempts to ramp up the charm of the French image. Over 50,000 copies of a pamphlet entitled, “Do You Speak Touriste?” has been passed out to Parisian cafes, hotels, shops and taxis.
The pamphlet contains advice about how to treat different nationalities visiting the city. “The British, it advises, want to be called by their first names. The Japanese need to feel reassured. The Spanish mainly want people to be nice,” sums reporter Liz Alderman. And “as for the Americans, the guide notes, they are glued to their personal devices and want to eat as early as 6 p.m.”
An Americans in a Technological Cocoon
Journalist Frank Bruni recently wrote of his trip to Shanghai where, despite the new sights, sounds, tastes and smells to explore, he found himself relaxing in his hotel with an American TV show, his favorite music and news from home in his digital magazines. He claims that he used his iPad to “insulate me from the strange and new.”
Bruni writes that he was “haunted by how tempting it was to stay put, by how easily a person these days can travel the globe, and travel through life, in a thoroughly customized cocoon.” With access to the “cloud” from almost anywhere, there is constant access to the comfort of home despite one’s body being thousands of miles away.
Facebook and Twitter keep travelers up to date on their friends continue going to and from work. Bruini worries that using a “device capable of putting a galaxy of information within reach” has the potential to “collapse the universe into one redundant experience, one sustained note, a well-worn groove also known as a rut.”
Living in the Light of your own Paparazzi
It doesn’t take much to become an internet celebrity nowadays. If you can hold a camera at arms length and click a pic of your own face, then you can be your own publicity.
If you traveled recently, even on a simple outing in your own city, you probably noticed copious numbers of people pausing every five feet to take a picture of themselves in their environment. People often plan an outing with all the great photo op possibilities already in the back of their minds.
But research from three universities, University of Birmingham, University West of England and University of Edinburgh, concluded that people do not relate well to those who “constantly share photos of themselves.” A CBS DC article said that the study which was called “Tagger’s Delight?” discovered “that those who share more photos had a decrease in intimacy and closeness in their relationships. Also, a real-life friendship only saw negative impacts with more photos posted to the social network website.”
How should we Travel?
Navigating a foreign city with a smartphone keeps travelers from ever getting lost and fumbling for directions in a foreign tongue, and this may be a pro or a con depending on your personality. The findings of popular culture commentators and research analysts undeniably points to a change in the way that technology allows us to perceive ourselves, our friends and our environment. This might be perfect for the traveler who wants to feel always at home, but it might prove a tragedy to other tourists.
So for the adventurer truly wanting to get away from it all and immerse him or herself in another place, it is probably best to cuddle up in an outdoor jacket from Columbia rather than in the world of your mobile device.
Image from mikesowden.org