Urry places an emphasis on the visual arm of capitalist tourism advertising as he weaves his arguments together. We have come a long way since Petrarch, and though our history is riddled with colonialism, I don’t believe our reasons for traveling are simply to subject those foreign settings we visit to our own visual interpretation.
I found value in Urry’s breakdown of the different types of the Tourist Gaze and especially related to the idea of the romantic gaze.
In 2015 I visited Rome. While there, I visited all of the places Urry would say that I was told to, but my love and lasting memories of that trip can’t be found in the Colosseum or even any of the pictures I took.
My most valuable memory is sitting in a restaurant whose name I still haven’t forgotten. Cafe Belsiana is tucked away on a small street conveniently called Via Belsiana. As I sat eating bread and pasta, from the very moment I had sat down, I watched an old man drink his espresso, read a magazine, and walk out happy. This memory is what drives my persistent want to travel, but I couldn’t help but feel defensive when I read Urry’s essay. Would he describe this experience as visual appropriation? In my mind, I was captivated by the romantic gaze. But does this make me a tourist in that restaurant inherently? I’ve looked at people in American bars drinking cocktails in the same way. Is this gaze, this moment, really colonizing as Urry says it is? Or is it the inescapable colonialist history that is present wherever we travel?