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This is going to come off a bit snobby, but I think there's a difference between a tourist and a traveler. A tourist is someone who goes to places and just checks them off without really understanding why the place is important or know why they are even there. These are the people who go up to the Palatine Hill and say, "Oh, it's just a bunch of ruins. Who cares?" They're the people who get freaked out if they get a bit lost, or if they can't find their usual food to eat, or get angry because they just paid $10 for an espresso because they never bothered to find out the pricing tiers at cafes. Travelers are those who, even though they might be seeing the same things tourists are, have done their homework on a place and understand the context of what they are seeing. They'll get lost in a place and look at it as an adventure, and will probably find that little medieval church with a della Robbia on a side street in Florence that no one goes into because they haven't bothered to leave the main parts of town. They find restaurants and cafes that have only locals in them, and pay only 1 Euro for an espresso. They are open (and want) to visit the places that are off the beaten path and want to interact with the locals instead of just treating them like they are there to serve tourists. All this is to say that people reading travel blogs probably are more likely to be travelers, rather than tourists, and will have a vested interest in not exploiting the places they visit, and will, in fact, behave like the guests they are. Perhaps getting people to donate to local causes, for example, can help offset the damage tourism can do. Bringing up environmental and societal issues in blogs helps people to be more informed, and therefore, give them the ability to act more responsibly in the places they visit might also be good. I know some do already. The biggest problem I see is not with people who read travel blogs, but people on large package tours who stay hermetically sealed inside their buses or are being dragged along at top speed by tour directors, and don't really get much of a chance to get off the beaten path, or. Also, guidebook writers have a huge responsibility as well to explain to their readers what the impact of large amounts of tourism has on a place. Some of these, like Lonely Planet, are very good about this, but I wonder about the guides geared toward the less-adventurous types. I'm sure this is really rambling and probably doesn't make much sense, but it's based on some of what I've seen when I've been traveling.
Amanda, if the tour guides had said Romans in the Dark Ages or Middle Ages, I would probably agree about the life expectancy, but, as you say, certainly not the Ancient Romans. Maybe it was the obsession with visiting the baths, but they certainly did have reasonable life expectancy if they made it past young childhood. One of the things that's amazing, and not in a good way, is that, after the fall of the Western Empire, infrastructure fell apart, especially the provision of running water to cities, and no one tried to fix it. I always wonder why the powers-that-be which came to power didn't make any kind of effort to maintain the aqueducts, in particular.
Thanks for the suggestions, Amanda! As I commented before, I'm taking a group of students to Rome in the spring and now know where to go so they don't get ripped off after our trip to the Vatican and St. Peter's.
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Jun 19, 2012