So You've Earned Yourself A Holiday Overseas?
Updated: Mar 1
Entitlement- a simple word, with a lot of weight. It is a trait that has been acquired by many and is one that enables those who have the privilege to dapple in its existence to become accustomed to its benefits. Entitlement can be found in every corner of life. Although its presence might be subtle at times, the ultimate volume of its existence cannot be hidden.
Within this piece, we will be discussing the entitlement that often emerges when people travel.
Ever since ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ forced itself on us all, we have seen an influx of Instagram ‘influencers’ and ‘fitness gurus’ flock over to under-resourced nations, such as Bali, and exploit vulnerable communities for their own tailored ‘exotic’ fix.
With such an influx, comes a multitude of problematic complications and prejudices.
The expectation of mutual understanding that many people hold whilst travelling is unrealistic and extremely damaging. In conjunction with this, the expectation of familiarity is also a common and problematic product that comes with privileged travel.
There is a default baseline in many people's dispositions that imply that everyone should be familiar with the same concepts and ways of life that we, as the West, are so comfortably accustomed to. This automatic thought process that assumes every individual we encounter thinks and lives the same as our own way of life stems from the idea that the 'West knows Best' and continues to harbour underlying supremacist principles.
It is not uncommon to witness privileged travellers in a foreign country become infuriated and frustrated at the locals they are engaging with because they do not speak English. Through such frustrations, many attitudes are formed and expressed in patronising and demoralising ways. These unrealistic expectations and lack of respect to learn anything in return continues to send a message to people that are foreign to our own customs that our way of life is superior and should be prioritised and favoured.
Last year, 1.18 million Australians travelled to Indonesia, with a large majority of this number heading to Bali. For many years now, Australians have considered Bali to be something similar to a 'second home'. Over-tourist destinations within Bali, such as Kuta and Seminyak, have had such a Western influence, that it's often hard to distinguish anything culturally Balinese about them as a result.
Curtin University Professor of Cultural Studies, Jon Stratton suggests that many people want the"nuance of the exotic but they also want the comforts of home". This is evident within Bali through holiday ‘hot spots’ such as Mrs Sippy and Potato Head Beach Club; and anything else alike. These are pool party destinations that have been curated for tourists; creating an isolated experience that removes these visitors from the reality of Bali and immerses these tourists into a constructed utopian ‘paradise’ that limits all perceptions of anything cultural or local within the country.
It's also important to highlight that these destinations, and many alike, are owned by ex-pats and foreigners. As a result, these ‘hot spots’ are often not even generating money that is staying within the local community. While it's important to note that these particular attractions may attract tourists to travel to Bali, thus generating some amount of economic growth within the country- the question is, where do we draw the line?
Is it worth sacrificing and diminishing a culture for the growth of these trends?
Tourism is often the largest economic contribution and growth for a nation. Particularly when involving a ‘developing’ and 'under-resourced' nation. However, as a result of this, such a huge reliance on economic growth can often lead to a population of people transforming their customs and ways of life to suit and meet the needs and demands of the consumer.
This is where the role of those with privilege comes in and plays a huge part in shaping and changing the culture of another. Hence, where we will also circle back to the idea and concept of entitlement.
Australians for many years now have rewarded their hard work with a holiday to Bali. Almost as if they are entitled to this trip, because they have earnt it. And, rightly so. We should all be able to reward ourselves and enjoy a well-earned trip. It is common for Russians to travel to Vietnam and the British to Tenerife.
But with this sense of achievement and reward, comes bigger problems and feelings of entitlement. We have ‘worked hard’, thus, can reward ourselves with whatever feels 'comfortable' and 'suitable' to our needs and wants.
Bali is among one of the cheaper destinations for travellers in comparison to holiday spots found within Europe. It's enticing for many, as our 'hard earned' spendings can go further on these holidays. However, with this ability, comes the potential for power and exploitation of vulnerable communities who rely so heavily on our visits for a consistent income.
With such power, comes influence and with influence, comes the potential for loss of culture and assimilation. In the process, disrespect is also shown.
We don't hear many of these similar stories in countries such as Italy and Canada.
So why is this?
With feelings of power, people's attitudes alter, and their egos can be inflated. As mentioned previously, our dollar goes further within countries like Indonesia and other 'under-resourced' nations. With that knowledge, comes a sense of importance, and often a sense of ownership for many. As a result, people feel they can behave however they like. And sadly, many communities, and their locals, tolerate this behaviour because of their reliance on tourism and what these tourists generate for their businesses and ultimate livelihoods.
It's a vicious and dangerous cycle of disrespect and an ugly side to tourism, that so many are objectively ignoring, thus continuing to keep the disparity of equality between individuals so heightened.
If we were to flip the perspective within these scenarios- how outraged and infuriated would we be if these similar attitudes and customs were being implemented in our own communities? It is very easy to forget the impacts of our actions and choices when they are so far from home.
So why can we do this to others and get away with it? Why must the West feel so entitled to everything they participate in?
The problem with entitlement is that we do not begin to consider these influences and impacts. People feel so entitled to achieve and experience these tourist attractions and foreign destinations, that we neglect to consider the broader perspective and those forced to be stuck in the middle of it; caught between the need to generate an income to ultimately survive, and the preservation of culture and often Indigenous practices and values.
Travel should not be viewed as a right, but rather a privilege. The ability to travel translates to the concept that a tourist has some inherent form of privilege obtained through this accessibility. As a result, travellers should treat this ability as such.
With privilege comes power, and with power comes responsibility, not the right to ignorance. When privilege is linked with entitlement and ignorance, we unknowingly (and also ignorantly), compromise others.
Through what may seem like small demands when on holiday, we are setting the precedent that our culture is superior and desirable to what already exists. At the very basis of all irresponsible travel choices, we are contributing to assimilation. A concept that is incredibly dangerous and destructive, one that should not be progressed, but is so easily and unknowingly practised by so many.
It's baffling that anyone would spend all that money to travel to another destination, only to experience it the same way anyone could by the poolside of their own backyard. So, I urge you, the next time you travel to Bali, or any other destination different from your own, for a well-earned holiday, to consider your travel choices and the impacts they may have.
I encourage you to participate and immerse yourself in more local/ cultural activities and to begin to appreciate the culture you are in. This also involves being respectful of the environment you are visiting and beginning to understand what that involves and ultimately requires.
Support locally run businesses and learn basic phrases of the local language. But most importantly, do not expect and assume. Remember, you are a visitor, your holiday is a privilege, not an inherent right, and because of this, no one owes you anything.
For more tips on responsible tourism, please check out our checklist:
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