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’?