The Practical Nomad blog

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

The Amazing Race 32, Episode 2

Tobago (Trinidad & Tobago) - Bogotá (Colombia) - Nemocón (Colombia) - Bogotá (Colombia)

Are you watching The Amazing Race 32 to look back at the way travel used to be in the time B.C. ("Before Coronavirus")? Or are you looking forward to the ways travel around the world will be different after coronavirus (if there is an "after)? Please let me know, in the comments or by e-mail.

The entire season of the reality-TV travel show was filmed, edited, and ready for broadcast long before the current pandemic. It would be unfair to expect any explicit reference to, much less focus on, the issues the pandemic raises for travellers. But even with that caveat, I found this week's episode disappointing.

What I've found most valuable in travel, and miss most about it, are the opportunities it provides to meet people and see and do things that are different from my previous life experience. I don't need or want to burn enough kerosene to fly halfway around the world to meet people like myself (such as other tourists from the USA and/or from similar backgrounds) or to see or do things that I could find in my own backyard.

The producers of The Amazing Race kept the cast members largely isolated from anyone other than each other during this episode in Colombia. They went everywhere in separate taxis, rather than by mass transit. For the most part, the "challenges" they had to complete could have been staged almost anywhere. And they spent the night with only their fellow racers for company, all laying out their sleeping bags on the floor of one underground chamber of a salt mine. A cool photo op, but unnecessarily isolated. I'd rather spend a night in an ordinary-looking hotel with an interesting clientele of local travellers to hang out with. I'm especially partial to hotels that cater to travellers from other parts of the country I'm in, rather than to international visitors.

The lack of opportunities for cast members of "The Amazing Race" to meet more Colombians is especially unfortunate because, as U.S. citizens, we have more connection with, and more responsibility for, what life is like for people in Colombia that most of us realize.

As I noted the first time The Amazing Race went to Colombia four years ago, "The U.S. government has been a perpetrator and participant, not a bystander and certainly not a force for peace, in the war(s) in Colombia. One of the reasons for me to visit Colombia would be to try to learn, to the extent that it's possible to do so as a tourist, something about what's been done with my tax dollars and in my name."

Some things about Colombia have changed since then, but twenty years after the launch of the U.S. Plan Colombia, Colombia is still the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the hemisphere, by a factor of three or four over any other country in Latin America or the Caribbean. Mexico ranks a distant second on that list, despite its much larger population.

(Most of the guns used in the epidemic of violence in recent years in Mexico have been made in the USA -- raising important issues of the U.S. role in international trafficking in small arms -- but for the most part those guns haven't been directly paid for by the U.S. government.)

If we vote and/or pay taxes in the USA, we can no more be "just a tourist" in Colombia than an American could have been "just a tourist" in Saigon during the U.S. war in Indochina, or "just a tourist" in Pakistan during the U.S. proxy war with the USSR in the 1980s, when I travelled there. That doesn't mean we can or should try to travel to combat zones, but it does give us some responsibility to keep our eyes and ears open to the impact of our decisions in the USA -- both in politics and purchasing -- on people's lives in the places we visit.

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 21 October 2020, 23:59 (11:59 PM)
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