For some varieties of 'new traveller', as the guide books refer to him, fun, or value for money, can only be had when the going gets rough. He is, without question, a man. He likes to keep count of his change and clock up the kilometres. Once abroad he's a seigneur of the road; the locals are vassals, trespassers, con-artists and thieves. The new traveller knows how to deal with them. He's the strongish, silent type who won't complain if there are no croissants at breakfast. He may not succumb to the t-shirt, but he's busy having been there, done that. He can be moved by a spectacular view at the end of a dreadful day. He believes that nothing should come easy, there must be endemic hassle and haggle from dawn to dusk. And because the business of getting there is really the whole point, or much of it, it turns out that, with his preferred form of leisure, there's no distinguishing the thing pursued from the pursuit of it. It's already done though he's still looking forward to it. Queuing seven hours for a visa while suffering a bad case of dysentery, multiple snakebite and severe heatstroke, or being run off the road by a truck and later robbed at gunpoint, is evidently what makes the earth move for the kind of traveller the Lonely Planet guides have in mind.
LRB 1 January 1998 | PDF Download