It’s three year since I last posted. The last few posts were from my walks — my travels as I began them in my retirement. Quite a lot has happened since then — in the world — in my life.
The trip that included Matera (previous post) was the first of many of this sort that I have taken since. This is what people do in retirement these days, so it seems. And indeed I find myself intersecting with other similar walking groups. I am deeply ambivalent about these trips. To travel to a country as a tourist is always complicated. One is peering in on other lives –other ways of living — and so I can’t help but feel that I am a bit of a voyeur. I travel self-consciously and sometimes uncomfortably as a result.
But I am, at least sometimes, an invited observer, although those who are letting me into their lives do so with mixed motives as well. On the one hand they want to share the parts of their lives that they love — the bits of their worlds that make them proud. On the other hand, they sometimes find themselves doing so because other options to support themselves are in short supply. It is no secret that the economies of Greece, Italy, Portugal (some of the places that I have traveled) are struggling and tourism is a mixed blessing.
There are many ways that this plays out though. Sometimes it is that other options are just not that appealing (working in an office as opposed to spending one’s days leading walkers through the countryside) and sometimes it is someone who just does something that their family has been doing for generations that is now fascinating to tourists. I am thinking in particular of a cheese maker in Sicily who laughed loudly and often with us (and maybe at little at us) as he made ricotta next to his goats while puffing away on his cigarette. Although he has shown lots of tourists how cheese is made he still finds it amusing and hard to believe that we are interested and so mystified.
I am aware that the relative wealth and the freedom to travel that I have is a privilege. The tensions have not stopped me so far even though I always have a point on these trips when I wonder what on earth I am doing and why. This has not yet been enough to prevent me from booking the next one.