I’m a bit put out by the attitude of ‘Jupiter’s Travels’ author Ted Simon, who’s just repeated his 1973 trip around the world by motorbike and found it wanting.
Quote: “A beach in Thailand that Simon had had to himself for a week on his first trip was now a nightmare of concrete and tourists. Tiny villages in Asia and Africa had ballooned into shanty towns, their inhabitants as poor as ever.”
In other words: all that matters to him is that the atmospheric little villages, redolent with smoke and animal dung, have transformed into characterless corrugated towns. The low socio-economic status of the Africans is of secondary concern when compared to the incredible disappointment of him not having a cultural experience.
Or try: “On my first trip I would ride into a small village in Sudan or the Middle East and they would feed me, fuss over me like I was a pop star. This time around no one bothered — they’ve seen too many blokes on motorbikes.”
Translation: I’m really disappointed that nobody thinks I’m a celebrity any more.
Another: “I do regret that my son will never be able to dance with the Turkana [the Kenyan tribe] as I once did, or that China has lost its mystery, that it is possible to travel from one end of Africa to the other without seeing a wild animal that isn’t protected, and all the empty beaches I once loved are full.”
Translation: It’s a shame the rest of the world has changed in the last 33 years, because it’s made it so much less fun for me.
Hey Ted, WAKE UP! Everywhere in the article, his plaintive voice is whining: I’m special, I’m the traveller, and the world exists for my personal sense of fulfilment. It’s the same mistake made by 99% of travel writers: assuming that they’re somehow more special than the people they visit.
Ted, you’re just plain wrong. There’s still PLENTY of mystery and wonder in the world. Could it be that by visiting all the same places you went to in 1973, you might have been… just a bit… narrow minded? If you wanted wonder, perhaps you should have taken a different route, done it in a different way?
I still hate travel writing.