Philosopher sparks outrage with essay about why people shouldn’t travel: ‘Very elitist’

The work of a philosopher is causing controversy after she explains why people should not travel.

On the 24th of June, The New Yorker published an essay by philosopher Agnes Callard in which she laid out her reasons for not traveling. In her article, Callard claimed that, even though some may argue that traveling “lifts us into an enlightened state,” it may not always be accurate.

“Travel is branded as a mark of achievement: visit interesting destinations, share intriguing experiences, meet fascinating people. What exactly does?” she wrote.

In her essay, Callard stated that while traveling can be a chance for people to “experience a change,” it often leaves people “unchanged.” To support her assertion, she discussed an excursion to Abu Dhabi, where she “went on a guided tour of a falcon hospital” despite having “no interest in falconry or falcons.”

“But the falcon hospital was one of the answers to the question: ‘What does one do in Abu Dhabi?'” she wrote. “I suspect that everything about the falcon hospital, from its layout to its mission statement, is and will continue to be shaped by the visits of people like me – we unchanged changers, we tourists.”

For reasons why it could cause “bad” for a place to be shaped by visitors, Callard claimed that it’s because tourists “not only do not know what they are doing, but [they] are not even trying to learn.”

According to Callard, in her research, the issue of tourists participating in tourism actions is that typically, people choose to visit these destinations but do not desire to see them in their everyday lives. “If you are going to see something you neither value nor aspire to value, you are not doing much of anything besides locomoting,” she wrote.

“When you travel, you suspend your usual standards for what counts as a valuable use of time… After all, you say to yourself, the whole point of travelling is to break out of the confines of everyday life,” she added. “But when you typically stay away from museums, and then you suddenly go to them with the sake of experiencing a new experience What are you likely to think of the artwork? You could be in an entire room of falcons.”

Callard was then able to share what she believed to be a crucial realization regarding travel – it is that people “already know what we will be like when we return,” after which she explained that this means that a trip is unlikely to alter us the as a significant life moment, such as beginning an entirely new job or falling in love and moving into a brand new country will.

“We set out on these journeys with the anxiety of a person who walks into a tunnel without knowing who she will become when she emerges. Travelers leave with the confidence that she’ll return with the same ideas, political convictions and lifestyle,” the author wrote. “Travel is like a boomerang. It will drop you exactly where you left.”

According to Callard, even though traveling may have the potential to become “fun,” it is not “mysterious” like some may claim that it is. The philosopher suggests that the mystery lies in “why we imbue it with a vast significance.”

“If a vacation is merely the pursuit of unchanging change, an embrace of nothing, why insist on its meaning?” she asked.

But, as per Callard her research, the majority of people do not realize that they’ve traveled, and she urged readers to think about the trips of their acquaintances and family members, who might argue that they’ve had a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” but who remain essentially the same.


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