Phillip Wade Wilson

The Semiotics of Tourism: Everything Has Consequences – Description

There were a few points within this reading that resonated deeply within me and made me take a second and just think. I found myself saying “wow” or laughing a bit as I read this because I never organized my thoughts about tourists and travelers in this way before, but I know for a fact I too dichotomize the two and stereotype the tourist as inherently negative while the traveler is its noble counterpart. I found it even more interesting when Culler displayed the thoughts of Fussell in juxtaposition to Boorstin, and I happened to agree with both explanations of how those authors describe tourists and travelers. I think, while possibly on the extreme side, Fussell brings up good points in relation to societal pressures and expectations while Boorstin centers his claims around the way times have changed to make travel itself easier. To me, it seemed that Fussell cast the motives of tourists as equitable to that of a person at a massage parlor in order to pretend to be something they are not to escape the natural bounds of one’s life and attempt to rationalize the haunting conditions of a normal, working, average person was quite relatable, at least in my life.

Like we talked about with beachgoing in America, once at the beach we kind of succumb to this carnival-like state of not caring about societal norms or expectations or even about what may be the best for us in general… it almost seems like taking a trip anywhere, not just the beach, taps us into our own hedonistic nature. When I go on vacations, I always end up spending more money than I should; if I go to the beach, I typically get more sun than I should; I usually eat more unhealthily and focus on what I want to eat at that moment rather than taking a step back from my cravings; I tend to focus more on what I want in that time than what anyone else wants. Fussell describes this in a sense and it resonated with me in more ways than just one. I found his argument, while more emotional based, to be stronger than Boorstin’s even though Culler seemed to lean more toward Boorstin’s and cast Fussell in a negative light after he quoted him.

Another major takeaway from this piece was the way authenticity was portrayed. I have always attempted to look at things from an outside perspective in order to better contextualize what I am experiencing, but Culler’s work takes it so much further. A self-reflection, of sorts, into our own biases and understanding of the world will help us see the “signs” without letting our “alibis” cloud our perceptions. I tended to view tourist traps, like the city of Pisa in Italy or the Empire State Building in NYC (if you have been to either of those you know what I am referring to), as a detriment to the experience I, or anyone, could have but after reading about the way “markers” ultimately heighten our experiences I have a newfound love for my memories within those places. After finishing Culler’s work it became even clearer to me that everything, no matter how small, has consequences.

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