Discover The New Yorker’s case against travel and join the tourism debate with Agnes Callard’s perspective on the meaning of being a tourist 🙅♂️
Is it okay to not want to travel?
A controversial recent article in The New Yorker titled “The Case Against Travel” by philosophy professor Agnes Callard questions some common assumptions about the value of travel. The article asks whether it’s okay to not want to travel or find travel overrated. It challenges the notion that travel necessarily broadens the mind or transforms travelers into superior, worldly people.
Who wrote the case against travel?
The article making the case against travel was written by Agnes Callard, a philosophy professor at the University of Chicago. Callard examines travel through a philosophical lens, analyzing the assumptions, motivations, and outcomes behind why people travel.
What are the bad effects of travel?
Callard argues tourism and frivolous travel can have several downsides:
- Travelers take superficial, inauthentic experiences over meaningful ones just to collect interesting stories about novel destinations. For example, visiting a falcon hospital despite having no real interest in falcons.
- Modern kind of travel incentivizes a “locomotive” mentality focused more on the idea of movement between destinations rather than genuinely engaging with any one place. For example, briefly seeing the Mona Lisa only to tick it off your list.
- Travelers adopt an attitude of cultural voyeurism, observing foreign cultures at a distance rather than sincerely interacting with them. Locals may resent serving as props for travelers seeking exotic backdrops.
- Tourism can degrade cultural heritage sites and the environment through overcrowding and strain on infrastructure. Historical sites become flooded with the crowds of travelers merely seeking a selfie rather than any connection.
Does travel really broaden the mind?
While travel is often branded as an exhilarating activity that expands horizons, transforms worldviews, and turns us into citizens of the world, Callard contends these belief may be mostly delusions travelers tell themselves. She questions whether travel truly intellectually and emotionally matures travelers.
In Callard’s view, transformative experiences like travel involve departing from your comfort zone not quite knowing how you’ll be changed. With routine vacations, travelers remain grounded in their usual politics, interests, and perspectives. They leave confident of who they’ll be when they return, without really broadening their minds.
What is it called when you don’t like to travel?
There are a few terms for people who dislike or avoid travel:
- Homebody – Someone who prefers staying home over traveling and social activities.
- Xenophobe – Someone with an extreme fear or aversion to foreign places, people, or cultures. May overlap with homebodies.
- Provincial – A person with a narrow horizon or perspective limited to their hometown or region. Uninterested in novelty.
So while “homebody” is the most neutral term, “xenophobe” and “provincial” carry more negative connotations of being closed-minded and fearful of anything foreign.
Is it unhealthy to travel a lot?
Callard stops short of explicitly calling extensive travel unhealthy. However, her critique centers on frequent travelers being so locomotive they fail to authentically understand any one place and lose sight of their normal standards and true interests.
The article also examines tourism’s potential to degrade cultural heritage and the environment, especially with overtourism of popular sites. This implies excessive travel could indirectly harm local cultures and ecologies.
What do you call a person who loves food and travel?
There are a few popular terms for people who love to travel and experience food from different cultures:
- Foodie – Someone passionate about discovering and experiencing high-quality cuisine. Foodies may plan trips around tasting authentic regional dishes.
- Gastro tourist – A traveler who journeys specifically to savor the food and drink of a region. They view cuisine as the gateway to understanding local culture.
- Culinary traveler – Similar to a gastronomic tourist, this describes someone who travels to areas known for signature dishes to enjoy the food there.
So while “foodie” can refer to food lovers who don’t necessarily travel for cuisine, the terms “gastro tourist” and “culinary traveler” specifically denote travelers motivated by unique food experiences.
The Locomotive Mentality of Travel
Callard criticizes the locomotive mentality behind much travel – rapidly ticking off sights and destinations like boxes on a checklist rather than genuinely engaging with a place:
“Tourism is marked by its locomotive character. ‘I went to France.’ O.K., but what did you do there? ‘I went to the Louvre.’ O.K., but what did you do there? ‘I went to see the Mona Lisa.’ That is, before quickly moving on.”
This commodification of travel distorts the purpose behind why many people travel. Tourism promotes interest in visiting sites simply because they are designated as must-see attractions rather than holding any personal significance. It incentivizes the traveler to move through places rapidly, collecting snapshots of landmarks or artworks without establishing any meaningful connection.
Travel Transforms Us Into Our Worst Selves
Callard provocatively argues travel often brings out the worst tendencies in travelers even while convincing them it puts them at their best:
“Travel turns us into the worst version of ourselves while convincing us that we’re at our best. Call this the traveller’s delusion.”
How so? When traveling, people readily suspend their normal judgments and standards to step outside their usual comfort zones. But when travelers start visiting destinations and activities they usually spurn, they lack the context to appreciate these novel experiences. Their expanded horizons remain superficial. A traveler may suddenly start touring museums without any art appreciation background. What will they make of the paintings? As Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson reflected, “I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated.”
The Allure of Transformation Through Travel
What explains the vast significance and allure we attach to travel? Callard argues travel provides a tantalizing yet elusive taste of transformation and novelty. It splits our stretch of existence into a before and after, masking the certainty that we too shall die. Travel previews doing nothing even while disguising this as an enrichment narrative that we are expanding our boundaries. It appeals by turning us into temporary versions of our hoped-for future selves, no matter how superficial.
In the end, the way we travel reveals our attitude toward life’s ephemeral nature. As Callard concludes, “Socrates said that philosophy is a preparation for death. For everyone else, there’s travel.”
The New Yorker article clearly sparked controversy on many facets around travel. Some have criticized Callard’s stance as reductionist or missing how travel can lead to very meaningful personal growth for some people. But whether or not you fully agree, her contrarian philosophizing pushes us to challenge our assumptions and motivations around why we travel.