And full circle back to Delhi

We are back in Delhi, at the end of our Indian travels, preparing to move on to Africa. It has been an eye opening time and, as usual, has chased away stereotypical views that I held before I came here (not always for the better!).

As we have found elsewhere, the people with whom we have come into contact have, in the main, been delightful. Friendly, willing to answer our numerous questions and help us learn about their homeland. Those who have been too friendly have experienced Debbie’s blast ‘you touch my arse again and I’ll thump you’. As we continue to travel together onto new lands I hope that I won’t need my right hook primed for any troubles.

However, I still cannot understand why the country’s leaders don’t get a grip on the basic issues that face the people. I’m all for the Indians spending US$1.2bn buying British-made training fighters but, I am sure, the man in the street would rather the money be spent on basic sanitation, water and drainage supply. Every year, with the arrival of the monsoon rains, cholera outbreaks kill thousands of people and the authorities act as if they are surprised.

The Chinese, who were in a similar position 30 years ago, have managed to do all the basics so much better. I would imagine that they look over the fence into India and say to themselves ‘if that’s democracy, I don’t need it!’

I have conjugated a new verb. It is somewhat irregular but that simply makes it quintessentially English. It goes like this:

I am a traveler

You are a tourist

He is a tripper

We are explorers

You are visitors

They are sightseers

I feel it captures the essence of present day travel in a way that no other verb has yet managed. I don’t expect everyone will understand the subtleties nor grasp the intellectual intricacies of the meaning. But I am sharing it with you because I can see – the rest of the world needs bifocals.

I, as a traveler, walk around with my eyes open, going to places that are off the beaten track, seeing life, past and present, with an open heart, without prejudice. I try to reach out and touch the lives and culture of different peoples, to immerse in their very essence.

A tourist wants to see places and people that are new and different to the culture in which they derive. They will not take an unmarked path but prefer to stay within the bounds of familiarity that is defined for them by guides. This may include a hotel where they feel comfortable, a show put on for them by ‘local’ people and food that they recognise. Tourists still enjoy the different sites and cultures with which they are not familiar but only in a superficial, organised manner.

Trippers want to tick off a list of the great wonders that man and nature so richly provide. It is enough for them to see great monuments and wondrous places, to snap a photograph (preferably with their mate in the frame). They avoid and abhor unfamiliar culture or food and have no interest in foreign peoples. A quick visit is a good visit; get in get out, with the stomach intact and the senses unchallenged.

I think this verb has great merit and I donate it to mankind without thought of thanks. Of course, we all think of ourselves as travelers (that is the beauty of the verb) and we consider others as philistines who gum up places of beauty and get in the way of our (great) photographs. Tourists and trippers especially, make a great deal of noise, crashing through life like blind drunkards. We wish they would go away and leave us in peace.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are other more damaging aspects that these travel thugs bring to the world of exploration: cheap and accessible travel. Now they can be everywhere. And what’s going to happen when the emerging rich of Asia begin to spread their wings? Another billion or so tourists and trippers tramping over the most magical places on earth. As others have said, this time could be seen, in years to come, as the golden age of travel.

And full circle back to Delhi
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