I often find myself wondering about the hidden side of tourism. Not about the illegal black stuff that the local culture is just an enabling setting for, And not about where all the money goes - the top of the pyramid of tourist traps and souvenir shops. No no. I wonder about the moments, the people, and the culture that tourists overlook - that make up the real, local life, those that exist in the shadows of tourism - the cultural layer that vacationers do not have the time, the patience, or the reason to encounter. A reality that exists without being noticed, shaped to be almost invisible. The world of baggage handlers, maintenance crews, suppliers, cleaners, guards, doorkeepers, and shelf stockers. The world and culture of the people who make tourism - as we know it - possible.
I often find myself drawn to this undercover world of hidden moments, of silently shared destinies, of scenes, and behind-the-scenes. It intrigues me. With its easy-to-miss moments and easy-to-miss men. with the people who got used to living in it, often quietly, who are part of its special unseeable culture.
The wonderful Teresa and Yadi - Mexico City, 2023.
While traveling, I often get myself into situations where I can see this hidden world - sleeping in airports, going into laundry rooms and kitchen corridors, waking up early, sneaking into luxury beach clubs, going up the service stairs, eating at back ally lunchbreak street stalls and commuting in work shuttles - situations, where the cultural differences are present. I'm letting myself feel the lack of belonging, the awkwardness, the disorientation, The constant readiness to explain myself. Situations where I can feel the trivial liminality those people spend so much of their time in.
On my last journey to Mexico, I spent much time in these places - having conversations, listening, sharing, asking, tasting, being interested - trying to experience this reality and culture as much as possible from an insider's point of view.
As students of the journey, we need to be able to see, feel, and know all sides of it. We need to be able to see the parts we are used of being invisible. We need to learn to feel what and who we take for granted. We need to know the places where the local culture lies. Only in this way can we really ask ourselves questions about our path - about the factors that lead us to where we are, about the moments when we felt disoriented or at the edge of our comfort zone, about the places where we feel the most seen, about our own limitations or freedoms.
Our true answers appear only when we see, feel, and know all sides of our journey.
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