In today’s world of easy-access jet-setting, the glamorous aura that has surrounded international tourism has begun to fade at an ever-quickening rate. Thanks to expanding airline networks, cheaper tickets, and a rapidly thickening atmosphere of global communication, Average Jane and Joe can throw their junk in a suitcase for a two week excursion into the depths of a Costa Rican rainforest to visit villages trapped in time and eat queer delicacies only dreamable to prior generations. As with any commodity that has traditionally been rare, an expansion in the “supply” of international tourism has necessitated its demystification into a more mundane, typical part of people’s lives. 110 out of 313 million Americans (My countrypeople) now own passports, a record number, and this subgroup will only continue to grow in size over the next few years. Like the Ford Model T was for automobiles in the early 1900s, modern cross-border travel has deconstructed a luxury good by making it mass-produced and easily consumable.
So, for all of those who’ve participated in mass-scale foreign travel and/or enjoy watching our society develop or decay, a big question presents itself: with each foot that steps onto an airplane bound to another land, is travel sinking into a pit of crowded, prosaic blandness? Some of us, lost in the romanticism of yesteryear’s forays into untouched destinations as told by adventurers like ibn Batuta, Dinesen, Orwell, and the like, are definitely tempted to respond yes (I’m one of them).
Nevertheless, all observers of globalization must admit that the march of history here is unstoppable. People will continue to travel more often, and to make this as painless as possible for both themselves and the unwitting natives who will receive them, travelers need all of the guidance they can get. I write because I have accepted this fact and hope to turn my own adventures into something that can be useful for all of you out there, who may perchance wander into an odd corner of the world like a former Soviet military base in the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia. And to speak idealistically for a second, everybody deserves the chance to jump on a jet and experience the thrill of being washed over by humidity and pungent smells as the plane door slides open to the tarmac of Exoticstan.
Through my own tales, I hope to motivate you to go to wherever your “exoticstan” may be, and perhaps you’ll chuckle a bit and get informed on the way. I may write about some sordid topics, or stray into the realm of uncomfortable intimacy, but I hold the belief that what I share is ultimately relevant to the curious traveler-to-be or is, at the very least, humorous enough to merit a mention. Enjoy!