So You've Earned Yourself A Holiday Overseas?
Updated: Oct 20, 2019
Entitlement. This is a term I talk about quite regularly on this blog and is something that I am going to talk about continuously time and time again.
It seems it is a term a lot of people love having, one that many people have become quite accustomed to.
There have been countless times that I have been in another country from my own and witnessed privileged travellers become infuriated and frustrated at locals they are engaging with because they do not speak English. And through such frustrations, I have observed many attitudes formed and expressed in patronising and demoralising ways.
Each time I have witnessed these encounters, I continue to become saddened and disheartened at our world and the idea of any potential growth and change in Western thought processes and values.
This expectation of mutual understanding that many people hold whilst travelling, is unrealistic and extremely damaging. There is this assumption that everyone should be required to be familiar with the same concepts and ways of life that we are so accustomed to. This automatic thought process that assumes every individual we encounter, thinks and lives the same as our own way of life, is ludicrous and nothing short of values that harbours underlying supremacist principles.
Through these assumptions, we are creating very damaging structures. These unrealistic expectations and lack of respect to learn anything in return are sending a message to people that are foreign from our own customs, that our way of life is superior and should be prioritised and favoured.
Unlike a majority of the Australian population, I have yet to venture over to the island of Bali. I have considered it multiple times throughout my travel itinerates, but each time, I have put it off because I am scared of what I will witness once I am there.
Of course, it would be wrong to completely write off an entire population of people just because it’s a popular destination for Australian’s; it wouldn’t be fair to define a destination as a result of other people’s ignorant and entitled actions. However, ever since ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ forced itself on us all, we have seen an influx of Instagram ‘influencers’ and ‘fitness gurus’ flock over to this island and abuse it for their own tailored ‘exotic’ fix.
Last year, 1.18 million Australian’s travelled to Indonesia, with most of this number heading to Bali.
Before I continue on, I must clarify that I know a lot of people that have visited this small island and have travelled responsibly and respectfully. So, it is possible to be responsible and respectful whilst in heavily popular tourist destinations, like Bali……shocking!
But there is a larger population that do not and continue to abuse their privileges.
For many years now, Australian's 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 a 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.
I think it’s also important to mention that these destinations, and many alike, are owned by ‘expats’ and foreigners. So these ‘hot spots’ aren’t even generating money that is staying within the community surrounding. Yes, these experiences may attract tourists to come to Bali, thus generate some amount of economic growth within the country. However, where do we draw the line? Is it worth sacrificing and disrespecting a culture, for the growth of these trends?
My intent of this article is not to discourage anyone wanting to travel to Bali or any other nation with similar over-tourist problems. Tourism is often the largest economic contribution and growth for a nation. Particularly when involving a ‘developing’ country. However, as a result of this, such a huge reliance of 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 our role comes in and plays a huge part in shaping and changing the culture of another. And this is where I circle back around to the idea and concept of entitlement.
It is hard to deny that these popular tourist attractions are extremely culturally insensitive and inappropriate. It baffles me 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.
(But then again, if anyone did that, then they couldn’t get their pictures for Instagram and show everyone how well-travelled and cultured they are through their bikini pics with Buddha…. makes sense!)
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. I am sure others from different countries, have a similar foreign destination, they can relate the same feelings to also. It is common for Russian’s 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 suits us. Bali is among one of the cheaper destinations for travellers in comparison to holiday spots such as countries within Europe, so our spendings can go further on these holidays. And with this ability, comes the potential for power and exploitation of vulnerable communities who rely so heavily on our visits for a reliable income.
With such power, comes influence and with influence, comes the potential for loss of culture and assimilation. Along with this, such influence can create disrespect. I've read countless articles, time and time again, of badly behaved western tourists urinating in the streets, publically intoxicated and inappropriately hassling local shop owners.
We don't hear much of these similar stories in countries such as Italy and France. So why is this?
With feelings of power, people's attitudes alter, and their egos can be inflated. Like mentioned previously, our dollar goes further within countries like Indonesia and other 'underdeveloped' nations. With that knowledge, comes a sense of importance, and often a sense of ownership for many; so people feel they can behave however they like. And sadly, many communities and locals put up with this behaviour because of their reliance on tourism and what these tourists generate for their businesses. It's a vicious and dangerous cycle of disrespect and an ugly side to tourism. Ignorance has the power to destroy so much.
I think it’s important when discussing these issues to flip the perspective at times. How outraged and infuriated would we be if these similar attitudes and customs were being implemented in our own countries? It is very easy to forget the impacts of our actions and choices when they are so far from home.
I’m pretty certain it goes without saying to assume that people would become angry if our society began to change its current way of living to meet the demands of a foreign group of people who were simply visiting for a holiday.
So why can we do this to others and get away with it? Why must we feel so entitled to everything we 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 trapped in the middle of it. Travel should not be viewed as a right, but rather a privilege. The ability to travel means a tourist has some inherent form of privilege obtained through this accessibility and 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 compromise others.
Through what may seem like small demands when on holiday, we are setting the precedent that our culture is more superior and desirable than what already exists. At the very basis off all irresponsible travel choices, we are contributing to assimilation. A concept that is very dangerous and destructive and one that should not be progressed but is so easily and unknowingly practiced by so many.
So, I urge you, the next time you travel to Bali, or any other destination for your well-earned holiday, consider your travel choices and the impacts it 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 to begin to understand what that involves and requires. Support locally run business 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 further reading on this topic, please check out a similar article I have written called: