Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tourism Paradigm Shift

Unbelievable as it sounds, I started this post in 2008(!), under the title "What's Wrong with Tourism?". The few bullet points I wrote laid in the draft copy undeveloped until new technology (websites and applications) came to the rescue.

The main idea I wanted to convey back in 2008 wast hat tourists usually have a shallow experience of countries they visit. They see sites and take pictures, but don't get to know locals, talking only to receptionists, waiters and other service providers. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are not the norm.

Vacation home exchange sites were the first step into a deeper experience, with the movie The Holiday suggesting this is a way of finding romance. soon followed opening up two-way communications. and give useful comments and rankings, making them invaluable for planning and booking vacations. is the latest I heard of, helping you dine in private homes or host travelers for a meal in yours.

So yes, tourism becomes more personal, a positive shift for people who like to know others from around the world. But with all this globalization going on, we are still looking for and value the authentic and uncharted.

Vacation Summary

We summarize. Everything. We discuss likes and dislikes and sometimes grade. Virgos like closures, so here goes.

We recently returned from a 3-week vacation in Slovenia, Croatia, a bit of Italy and a pinch of Austria. Yes, 3 weeks. Not so long ago, it was not unusual to take 3-4-week vacations. Now you tell someone you took off 3 weeks and they look at you like a weirdo or sinner. While everything happens in shorter cycles, our brains need time to disengage, absorb the change of scenery, calm down, relax, and return to work refreshed. This "always-connected" modern slavery will lead to counter-revolution. Not sure we'll see droves of people joining the ranks of the Amish, but many will try alternative, quieter lifestyles.

Our two twenty-something year old boys came with us. Grownup kids joining their parents on vacation is also unusual. But actually we joined them. Tom organized the trip, Dan drove, we sat back and relaxed (when he wasn't driving too fast) and paid the bills. We argued, even about such petty things as the order of visiting sites on a certain day, but all in all it was a pleasant togetherness. Actually, I was the only one not fitting in, as the long uphill walks were difficult for me, while the guys jumped around stones and boulders with the gracefulness of mountain goats.

This was the first time we were repeatedly recognized by locals as Israelis before saying anything. So after four decades we look like Israelis. More precisely, like Israelis traveling across Europe. Actually, one person said I look Scottish. Never met anyone Scottish, so I don't know about that. Israelis abroad tend to recognize each other, but with all the globalization going on, this is becoming more difficult. Instead of the irritating "where are you from in Israel?" you get a long stare when hearing Hebrew.

Going away also helps putting things in perspective. Regardless of the tenseness and frequent news about the Middle East, Europeans have their own lives are worries, they know surprisingly little about what's going on here. We are certainly not at the center of their attention.

Slovenia has Switzerland-like landscapes, with Ljubljana as its small but chic capital, with many landmarks designed by their visionary architect Plecnik. Larger but poorer Croatia's Zagreb looks more like an architectural patchwork. Northern industriousness versus Mediterranean mindset coarsely summarizes the difference between the two countries. Trieste is super-polluted, while old Vienna offers grand palaces, music and pastries.

We enjoyed the mix of outdoors (mountains and valleys, caves and waterfalls, forests and gardens, lakes and rivers), cooler weather, culture, food and wine, being served, and the interaction with different people. Any suggestions for next year?