When in Rome
do as the Romans, are words we have heard over an over throughout our life; however too frequently when we Americans venture of to somewhere outside our home we tend to forget that. This past week I had enjoyed the pleasant company of my lovely mother to the Green Mountain
state. Unfortunately, her visit was marked with the mentality when in Vermont
do as all the other Americans. Must see Ben and Jerry’s, have to go to Cabot Cheese and a pleothora of other must see were the agenda of the week. For almost ten years, I spent working in the travel industry and much to my dismay I was consistently asked by my clients on what there was to do in a particular destination. I had senior citizens asking me while I was in my twenties on what they should do. “Where should I go to in New Orleans” or “how much time do I need in Yosemite,” were frequently asked questions. Often, I would answer with a bit of sarcasm with replies such as “if I told you were to go, you would come back and get me fired,” or for the national parks “it depends on what you do, it may take you a week to hike Mt. McKinley.” The American tourist industry is so fascinated with doing and “seeing” places that I feel that too frequently no one stops to smell the flowers. Back on the topic of my mother’s visit, she left the other day and now thinks she knows Vermont and is back home telling all her friends and family the stories of how they make cheese at Cabot and that “Tom(Ben) and Jerry’s(frequently called that by mother and eighty-something year old aunt) is a wonderful tour. America’s roads and highways are filled with ginoarmus(of course that’s not a word) RVs, busses and SUV’s filled with tourists stopping at “the treasured sites” never having to leave the comforts of home. There are strip malls and fast food outlets just like the rest of the littered American landscape. “The comment oh look they have a Wal-Mart or Mc Donald’s” not oh, look at that majestic mountain, the exhilaration of the river, or the vibrancy of the downtown. Americans are fixated to see, but in reality they never even leave home. When I was in travel sales, all I had to say about a particular destination was that it “had good shopping and restaurants, and of course an occasional beach or golf course and that was all most people needed to know. I do enjoy the occasional tourist activity, but it does not fill my curiosity of travel. I have traveled countless times to the San Francisco Bay area and it wasn’t until my latest trip did I venture to Alcatraz (yes, I did enjoy it), however Alcatraz and other destinations is barely breaks the surface of what the place is about. I no longer work in the travel business, for I had conflicting interests for I was tired of sending people to destinations knowing that I was adding to the destruction of the destination. Hawaii, a favorite of mine receives millions of tourists a year; unfortunately the revenues obtained are sent out of state towards the profits of the mega hotel chains, leaving the native Hawaiian people left struggling to survive, many with two or even three jobs. Here too in Vermont, a tourist industry has evolved catering to the self contained ski-resorts, leaving Vermonters struggling to make ends meat. Tourism is a double-edge sword; whole communities are lead to believe that it is necessary for them to cater to them while on the other hand the traditions and ways of living are squeezed out to make room for the tourists demand. I sure don’t know what the answer is to this conundrum, but I truly hope that as humanity evolves society can realize that life is not as portrayed by Disney World. A moose does not pop up on command nor is life the way it appears in a brochure. Vermont is not Shelburne Farms just as much as Hawaii is not Pearl Harbor. The world is a beautiful place but only with your eyes open. Peace
Robb Kidd “They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot with a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi.