adjective:exhibiting or producing a condition in which people or things are closely united

Last week I handed in two complete, cohesive essays. And since I have limited bandwith to write anything additionally creative, I think I’ll include the beginning pages of one of my essays, on tourism…

The Tourism Kaleidoscope

We continued on our journey, in Cappadocia, Turkey, winding around the tunnels of underground cities and awkwardly climbing into basalt rock caves like children playing politely on a jungle gym. Fatih, our tour guide, was always with us, never ahead or behind; he stuck with us like a friend and casually shared bits of information, instead of lecturing or teaching. I watched a few tourists from other groups gravitate toward his voice as he whispered local secrets; swells of jealously toward these trespassers rose within me. We strolled together through the open-air museum of Göreme, a Christian monastery turned national park and World Heritage Site, which contained more than 30 rock-carved churches and chapels and vibrant frescoes from the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries.

Treading in and out of the caves, I began to notice the relevance of my camera. When I would bring it to my eye, Fatih would stop and retreat to the background, avoiding the picture. It was there, in Göreme, that I decided I no longer wanted to be that tourist, the one who thrives on picture taking, thereby seeing an entire trip through a secondary lens, the one who relies on context, and the one who travels to a country to observe instead of experience.

Sometime before I got to Cappadocia, I became aware of the concept of tourism as something that had lost its panache. A tourist, “one that makes a tour for pleasure or culture,” sounds fashionable enough, but it carries a bit of baggage. Picture a group of “them,” folks touting pickpocket-proof carry-alls, wide-brimmed hats, camera lenses, pearly white sneakers and their eccentric, energetic leader carrying a neon-colored flag or balloon. Sunscreen spoils native aromas, and whimpering kids drag the soles of their sneakers along squeaky floors, leaving trails of rubbery goo. This scene is as immediate to the term tourist as a box of Kleenex is to the word tissue.

Today, you should be one of several things: a “traveler”, a “jetsetter”, a “globe-trotter”, a “trekker”, a “vacationer” or a “staycationer”, anything but a “tourist.” You should have “insider info” and avoid the typical spots that function as feeding frenzies for picture sharks. You should dress to fit in with the locals. If you are American, you should look un-American. You do not want to be one of the brainless sheep with a fanny pack. Accordingly to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), plenty of tourists roam the globe: “In 2009, travel for leisure, recreation and holidays accounted for just over half of all international tourist arrivals (446 million arrivals). Some 15% of international tourists reported travelling for business and professional purposes and another 27% travelled for specific purposes, such as visiting friends and relatives, religious reasons and pilgrimages, health treatment, etc.” This is a pastime here to stay.