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Globalization, Travel, and The Tourist Bubble

As I've mentioned before in these cyber-pages, I'm generally a proponent of globalization. I teach a unit on the topic using Thomas Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree in one of my courses. The rapid development of computer technology is a major piece of globalization. As one who travels a fair bit, I have benefited greatly in recent years from globalization. Not only has it become easier to get around the globe, I can stay in touch with home with an Internet connection in a cybercafé (or, even better, if I have high speed wireless in your hotel, as I do now!). I book my own flights and hotel reservations after shopping around online. It's easier to feel like a citizen of the world, at least in major cities.

There is a down side to all this, though.

On the day the Choate squash team arrived in England for its U.K. tour last March, I listened to the BBC while driving to our first stop in the country (everyone else was asleep due to jet lag, but of course I was behind the wheel and needed something to keep me from dozing off). There was an interesting report aired about how backpackers from Britain on their gap year--a year off between high school and university--could travel the world without ever really cutting their ties to home. Young Brits could easily stay in touch via e-mail and cell phones, watch Manchester United games virtually anywhere in the world, consume the food they were accustomed to in familiar eateries, and consequently rarely ever have the need to leave the "tourist bubble." That is, they infrequently had to interact with non-English speakers or immerse themselves into truly foreign situations.

Looking at my own travel habits, I can see the trap all too well. I rely on the International Herald Tribune to give me my fix of the New York Times each day, whether I am in London, Rome, Tokyo, or Buenos Aires. CNN is ubiquitous in hotels everywhere. I find myself surfing to familiar sites and even shopping on Amazon while half a world away. I cruise around world capitals with white earbuds playing me a comfortable soundtrack. In my hotel, I can fire up movies from home on my portable DVD player. I am routinely in touch with my work, communicating regularly with colleagues via e-mail even while "on vacation."

I wonder sometimes if it would be far better to cut myself off from the familiar and leave the laptop, the iPod, and the rest of the digital paraphernalia back home. But, then of course, how could I update this blog?


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 29, 2005 3:03 PM.

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