Tourists and Other Exotic Creatures

“Travel makes one modest;you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world”

Gustave Flaubert

The tourists here are not particularly friendly and rarely reply to the “Good Morning” I say to every person I meet. The locals however always respond. I think of France where, except in rare cases, evry “Bonjour” was met with a similar reply. Its strange when you think of it because many of the tourists are here to see those mighty migrants, the humpback whales who regularly express their joy at being alive and having fostered offspring by breaching and other forms of unique display. Whether I’m anthropomorphising and they are behaving this way for some other reason or not, joy is the outcome for the human spectators and it’s great to see the smiles and open-mouthed awe on the faces of tourist and local alike. Some are looking for Migaloo, that exotic creature the white (a bit pinkish to me ) whale who has been sighted off the coast here at Port Macquarie.

Tourists around the world have been getting bad press of late, in Europe, Asia and even broadminded Sydney who once warmly welcomed tourists from all over, most evident during the Olympic Games in 2000. (

But this backlash is world wide as communities everywhere count the costs and not just the economic benefits of tourism. Of course every tourist is an individual with their own specific wants, needs and desires and I have met all types: those who want to genuinely engage with the locals, their lives, environment and culture and those who want to tick items off their must see list without being touched by the lives of those around them. They’re the ones who follow the tour guide, rarely get lost, devour the malls particularly the ones that sell brands that are similar to those in their homeland and seek the least discomfort possible on the journey. No wonder they have that jaded look in their eyes! Perhaps these are the type that have caused a backlash against tourism but I think it is more complex than that.

When I travelled and stayed in France I became an exotic creature, “Une Australienne” a person defined by their nationality. Of course I made friendships which surpassed this definition but nonetheless it was a curious feeling to be defined by something which becomes invisible at home. I’m now in the process of reflection on my three months in France and have discovered that some of my most fulfilling experiences and exchanges happened when I left the beaten track and came across the unepected-those happy happenstances which bting awareness and change.

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” »

Paul Theroux

Reading the articles in the press has caused me to reflect on my own

behaviour as a a tourist;

Am I interested in and respectful of the lives of the locals?

Do I respect traditions and behaviours that are completely different to mine?

Am I sensitive to non-verbal behaviours which tell the real story?

Am I in touch with my shadow and my own exotic “creature-liness”?

How about you? What are you like as a tourist?

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