Italy in the Summer

I took these in Italy in the summer of 2012. We went to Rome, Florence, and Venice, and while it’s tough for me to pick favourite vacations, Rome has to be one of my favourite cities in the world. Great food, sunshine, history, art – it’s unbelievably beautiful.

I’ve been pretty busy the past couple of years, what with school and work, and that hasn’t left me much time to travel. It’s unlikely that I’ll be able to go anywhere until after I finish university. Hopefully, I’ll have a little time between graduating and starting work to take a trip somewhere. I’ve been to the three big destinations in Italy, so if I ever do go back, I’d like to go visit some other countries first, but I’d love to see Rome again, or go to the countryside or the Amalfi Coast. I wasn’t all that taken with Venice, so I’d be fine giving that a pass. It felt too much like one massive tourist trap to me.

My family’s Europe trips tend to be to cities and historical sites. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with it at all. I like cities and history as much as the next girl. But it would be nice to do something different – visit some less popular destinations or smaller towns; have a more relaxed, less strictly planned vacation. That sounds like a great plan for the summer after university, just taking a week and lounging around somewhere gorgeous.

Poverty Tourism and a Refusal to Question Worldviews

I was in India this past Christmas and New Year’s, visiting family. I was there for about three weeks, and while there, I noticed something that bothered me.

It started when my mom’s friend mentioned that her son had come back from school in Australia for the holidays. A couple of this guy’s friends – white and Australian – came to visit him as well, and when my mom’s friend asked if there was anything they wanted to see in Mumbai, they answered with Dharavi. Which happens to be the largest slum in India. A few days after I heard that story, I noticed a taxi with a sign advertising “Slum Tours”.

People take a sick pleasure in observing other people’s suffering. This is unashamed exploitation of the poor and homeless, and thousands of people being seen as nothing more than a form of entertainment. And travelling to a foreign country only to go to a deeply impoverished neighbourhood and gawk at the people living there a way of pretending that there’s no such thing as poverty in the West and a way of refusing to look at the whole picture of a place that’s often inaccurately represented.

India is a huge country, with a billion people, a very long history, and so much diversity in culture and language. It’s absolutely not all homeless people and poverty. There’s so, so much to see, but there are tourists that don’t seem to want to see any of it, and instead seem to be intentionally avoiding anything that challenges their existing perspective of what the country is like.

And yes! Of course it’s important to not bury your head in the sand. It’s important to not sanitize and gloss over the unpleasant things. But poverty, disease, and crime is what most people in the West see when it comes to just about any developing country, not just India.There’s more to all of these places than that.