I am Doing Reconnaissance

Having cycled 18 miles or so over the (admittedly long) weekend I’m going to have a rest today. I was going to cycle to Barrow yesterday, meet a friend, have lunch and then over to Quorn and back via the road, but this proved to be a little overambitious. It’s a lovely ride along the canal to Barrow – I’ve walked it many a time – but what I had forgotten is that the path crosses over at Pillings Lock and there’s a Bloody Great Bridge over which bikes must be carried. I reached it; I looked at it, I looked at the map and I thought ‘nah. This is far enough.’ So back I went, and far enough it jolly well was.

I’ve been thinking, as one does at this time of year, about holidays and travel. Like most of us I imagine I’d really like to get away but apart from the fact that nobody really knows what’s going to happen with Covid, I’m beginning to rethink tourism altogether because as a tourist you feel like a walking consumer. There are, it’s true, delightful holidays where you don’t have to feel that way at all – hiking in the Dales, climbing Monroes in Scotland, renting a cottage in the depths of France – but on most holidays you tend to feel like a walking market in which people are always trying to sell things. Buy this! Eat this! Look at this! Get the t-shirt! You can’t blame them – it’s the way most of them make money – but it’s not a pleasant experience. But though tourism may bring income to an area or country there are many hidden costs, not the least of which is accommodation. Last time I went to Southwold I felt very sad as I walked around and realised how many of the lovely houses near the sea front were actually holiday lets. Instead of staying in the heart of a town we were living in a tourist village where most of the locals had probably been completely priced out. I have very strong feelings about second homes too – appealing though it is to have a pied-a-terre somewhere delightful, it often means that local people are priced out and that you end up living in a community of city dwellers who only come down at the weekends. Besides, people have no business owning two homes when some people don’t even have one.

We’re going to have to stop flying anyway, so why not rethink tourism altogether? Instead of regarding the world as a spectacle to be consumed, see it as a place to be discovered. Instead of photographing everything, see and interact. Let’s forget tourism and bring back travel: in fact, let’s regard travel as a form of reconnaissance. Then again perhaps it’s like one of those irregular verbs: I am doing reconnaissance, you are a traveller, they are tourists.

Kirk out

6 thoughts on “I am Doing Reconnaissance

  1. You changed the ending – the original emailed out. I laughed when it said “There is much to be seen even in your back yard: though don’t come to our back yard… “

  2. The older I get, the more ambivalent I become about tourism travel [for myself], and covid hasn’t helped: I might do a couple of road trips to see remaining family & friends, and possibly to Ireland to spend some Euros I earned a few years ago, when [preferably] things have settled down, but other than that, I’m not in a hurry to go further afield, certainly not alone, and especially flying. By & large, I’m very happy in my own neighbourhood. Cheers, Jon.

  3. Sine we got a dog in 2012, foreign travel has stopped being an option, as I won’t leave him in kennels. We have had some very enjoyable holidays in Britain since, and we are going back to the Lincolnshire coast in September.
    I am with you on second homes. Property on the North Norfolk coast is so expensive now, many areas are comparable with places like Chelsea and Kensington in London. Even wealthy local people don’t have a hope of buying anything there, let alone young couples in regular jobs.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. Where I live gets pretty touristy. I found myself avoiding popping to a shop on (bank holiday) Monday just because I envisaged a queue of tourists outside (that and the roads being busier). Certainly, on the one hand properties get bought up for holiday homes, but then many a seasonal business struggles its way through the winter months.

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