Tourists and Tourism, Beggars and Begging

As a younger man, I was a ‘traveller’ not a ‘tourist’. ‘Travelling’ was the goal rather than ‘tourism’ and I arrogantly pitied those ‘fat fools’ on bus tours following the guide’s flag. Of course, there was plenty of hubris in that attitude as I tried my best to spend no money, stay in cool places and blend in as much as possible. To a large extent I had no real choice (or real money), it was independent travel in places like India or stay at home and work for a living. Anyway after a while, I could see that I was on a ‘tourist’ trail of a different hue and the (irony) floodgate that experience opens gushed.

For instance, trekking in Nepal, independently, without a guide, still led to the deforestation of the mountainsides and a false economy developing. Nepalis carrying boxes of soft drink high into the Annapurna rather than useful staples for the people. I was still ‘rich’ to many of the people and played my part in bringing all the social problems that ‘Westernisation’ brings to the people of remote, ‘untouched’ places.

In two years travelling, in the 90s, I took no photos. This was a conscious decision as I wanted to ‘live’ not ‘record’. How I regret that attitude and wish for pictures of that journey. There will be no such problem with this trip.

This trip does see us travelling independently, staying in a range of accommodation but undoubtedly tourists. When we arrive and work in Denmark, I am not sure what our status will be…

One issue that always confounds and conflicts is that of begging. In one steady gaze it is often possible to see a marvel of human design, that ‘wealthy’ tourists have travelled far to ogle with their expensive cameras, while a beggar, at feet level with a bowl, often disfigured, lame or old looks up open-mouthed and despairing. I have wanted to photograph every beggar we passed but somehow, could not bring myself to do so. As such, there are no photos to accompany this post.

What is your attitude towards the poverty and despair one sees ‘on the road’?

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2 thoughts on “Tourists and Tourism, Beggars and Begging

  1. Hi Darcy,
    I have helped beggers – but I will buy them food rather than give them money. One young man I did this for in South Africa was so excited about it – I negotiated with a local food store, gave them the money and the boy could choose what he wanted for a few days. He was so very thankful as he said most people just walk past.
    I suppose I have been jaded by HK and China where much of the begging is controlled by triads, and people being intentionally injured to create more pity – hence generate more money.
    If I offer to buy food and they decline saying they want the cash, then I am unable to help them. I suppose it is presumptuous of me, but if they are truly in need of cash for food to feed their babies or themselves, then they will take the food.
    Enjoying reading your travel blog and look forward to meeting you in Hong Kong!

    • Thanks Dianne. It is similar situation in India where people, often children, are mutilated to make them ‘more effective’ beggars. In Australia it seems most people have mental health issues and/or choose to be homeless. I suspect many are victims of abuse in their youth and the social/human alienation that results. Just recently, we saw a young man, quietly sitting by himself along the Tiber in Roma, roasting a chicken with a bunsen burner with his begging bowl in front of him. I always wonder what has led each individual to their particular situation and this man was 18 or 19.

      I look forward to HK later in the year too 🙂

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