Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rolf Potts on culturally sensitive travel

Is the traveler who hikes into the jungle to interact with the natives having an authentic intercultural experience, or is he negatively interfering with the natives' lives by flaunting his modern, internationally mobile lifestyle? Is the traveler's unconditional respect for people's archaic lifestyles doing them any good if their life expectancy is 47 years, their infant morality rate is 15 percent and their literacy is nil? Furthermore, isn't temporary friendship a self-indulgent gesture when the people the traveler befriends will likely never see him again, and might have benefited more from a less personal but more tangible contribution to their economy? Aren't -- by literal standards of cultural sensitivity -- the best travelers actually the herd-like group tourists, who experience the country from the safety of their air-conditioned buses and don't disrupt anything that hasn't already been

Rolf Potts, 'Goodbye, Khao San Road'


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