When I saw these photos, I found myself asking “Doesn't this girl have parents?”
Then I asked more questions to myself: Am I just too conservative, too old-fashioned? Am I being over-critical? What harm does it do me? If it doesn't do any harm, why should I bother? Bother her or be bothered myself? Am I too judgemental? She is just having fun. She is young and quite attractive, it is normal.
Or is it? Is this the world we want to live in? Are these the things we'd like to promote?
"Oh, you are old and you simply do not get it. And yes, you are old-fashioned."
"Ok, I accept the 'accusation', I want to keep my old-fashioned ways, thank you."
I really find it difficult to grasp that her parents do not give a word of advice to this girl. I mean it's fine with me if they are fine with their daughter going for fame with half-naked photos in Baobab Avenue or holding seashells to her vagina, or exposing her legs and ass all over Instagram. I have a daughter, so I shouldn't talk big, I don't know what I'd be doing if my daughter turned out to be such a woman. I mean I know of course, I certainly wouldn't approve. However, I also know that I would let her be herself. I have had enough of my mother trying to leash me. On the other hand, I know that I'd probably hug a stone in my bosom and cut my ties with her if she didn't heed my words and our interaction became a zone of constant conflict. There is no reason why people with very different values and no respect for each other should keep a bond. It's sad but it happens.
I am cautious to judge Lexie with the yardstick of my years, she is too young to know much about the world or life. But her parents are supposed to know better, I'd suppose. That's why I find it difficult to understand how and why Lexie's parents support her. I wish there was an interview with them. Because it's not only their saying or not saying anything to such photos, I believe - I mean I may be wrong of course, but I believe there is strong reason to think that they are financing Lexie for this goal. Perhaps they plan/expect it to pay back; after all, they have a travel agency and their daughter is going to hold a Guinness Record.
No, sorry, I do not believe it when Lexie claims she works three jobs to pay for her travels. Call me a cynic, but I don't. How much can one be making out of picking up tourists from airports and guiding? Plus, in between all the rush of travel plans and traveling to every country. I believe her parents are financing her travels, for the most part if not in full. That she pays for her travels is total bullshit even if she might not be spending too much. I realize this is my personal issue. I have an issue because I have not been able to monetize all my efforts. I have not been able to make a cent. I know, it's mostly because I do not want to sell out my soul and become a peg in this cogwheel of travel industry. I cannot stand it.
Yet, I want to make money, I want to have a place in this world, I want to have feedback on my posts on social media. Well, actually I'm not sure if I really want that last one. I cannot deal with people. The less in my life, the better it is. Still... I need some recognition.
Okay, I was glad to come across these posts to see I'm not the only one. When I saw these photos I thought to myself: “Who on earth and why would anyone give photos in a bikini in the Avenue of the Baobabs?” I mean it is one thing she publishes bikini photos by the sea, by the pool or in a waterfall, but this is really something! You don't go to the Avenue of the Baobabs in swim attire. Sorry but Lexie is not traveling the world, she is just promoting herself as a model around the world
Perhaps what bothers me about Lexie is her motto on the main-page of her website.
“How can you change the world if you haven't seen it?”
This girl is definitely not seeing the world; she is not even looking at the world, let alone see it.
Because in order to see, you need to look first. And she is just looking at herself. Yeah, I'm not sure if she sees herself much either. Beyond the physical that is...
I am sort of blind. I do not see things around me. I am one of those people who looks but doesn't see. A friend may pass by me, I may even be looking at her, I may not see. So if I pass you by and don't say “Ciao” it's not because I'm ignoring you, it's only because I was noticing other small details in the surroundings. That's my trait. I see conceptual details, I look behind the physical.
I was going to title this piece “Lexie and Parents”, then I decided to change it. Because this annoys me more because it is associated with travel: This girl is not traveling the world, she is just going around the world holding a magnifying mirror in hand and looking at herself. She is just looking at herself, capturing images of herself and admiring herself in different backgrounds. She is by no means the only one, but she is a prime example. And she is soon going to be the youngest person to travel to every country.
I cry for the massacring of the spirit of travel.
I'll be gaining the wrath of “fellow-travellers” as if I already haven't. But as I have already done so, I can go on some more with my criticisms.
They call themselves travel influencers; what they really are instead is... They are a bunch of advertisement agents to get people to spend money on certain hotels, airlines and other travel related agencies, and gadgets.
Yeah, some do it well. They “hide” their advertisement within “best photos of the year” articles or they pretend they are making an interview with a hotel director or a tour operator. They “review” hotels and airlines making us believe it is totally their honest opinion even though we all know they have been sponsored and, even if indirectly, paid to write those pieces.
What real honest opinion would be is if someone is so jazzed by a hotel, airline, tour agency that they write and promote it without being sponsored. Those days are long gone now. Say good-bye. Only very few like me remain. And I am no travel influencer. If I wanted to be an influencer I'd be an un-influencer of this hype of travel which has become an industry. Travel has lost its charm and has become overrated with the traveller profile proliferating the internet today. It's nauseating, or at least unsavoury when travellers overrate themselves.
"With a membership of only approximately 100 people, it’s one of the most exclusive clubs on Earth. In fact, more people have been to outer space than have earned their way into this, the ultimate travel club..." Says Ric Gazarian in the introduction of his "Counting Countries" podcast.
I find it repulsive when you try to elevate your status with the number of countries you've been to. What makes it worse is that the majority of these travellers are none the wiser despite all their travels. It's all ego boost.
Especially for those 193'ers... They go in for a day and out, tick a box... Of course not all but for most of them, it is 80-90 % at the airport and on the plane, 10-20 % taking photos/videos and posting them on social media, 2 % is actually getting to see and do something in the country.
I don't care much and do not criticize the ones doing this for their personal satisfaction, but I sure take issue with people promoting themselves as travel influencers or going for records, because these people have an impact on society at large.
Apart from the travellers themselves, travel is really not fun these days. Travel in the 21st century is more about visas and air travel. Airports are not fun; when you get to your destination being hassled by poor locals trying to sell you trinkets is not fun. Having to adjust to a new surrounding constantly is not fun. But no one really talks about this stuff. Behind those glossy pictures you see all around social media and magazines, there is a stark reality. There is poverty, there is pollution, there is swindling, all kinds of scams and rip-offs, there is conflict, there is basically the dark side of humanity.
These photos are not mine, I wish I had noted who it was from; yet, I could have easily taken these shots myself. They are a perfect reality check, a complete picture of travel and the world, both in the literal sense and allegorically for humanity and media. It takes just taking a step back to see the whole picture. Yet... Almost no one takes that step back for the overview.
Travellers show you only the first half, they are all like “Oh look how wonderful I am travelling. You could be like me too.”
There is a reason for this of course: To sell. How can anybody sell any trip to the latter?
Sell, Sell, Sell...
I'm sorry to say that women travellers are the worse in this industry. They depreciate both women and travel.
Take the below example. I mean I'd understand it if it was some extreme adventure gear or something, some also become tools in promoting basically totally unrelated items to travel, like yoga clothing, watches, sunnies etc.
Emily Luxton is only one of such “travellers”, she is an “award-winning writer and travel blogger”! According to her website claim. Yeah, I have an issue with these people; more than that, I have an issue with the world who promotes and values such people. Where people of my kind have no place in it.
Emily talks about travelling deeper and slower. Good for her, but where are the values behind deep and slow travel that she reflects on her posts?
Emily says “It really irks me” for people saying they've “done” countries. Good, it irks me too. But what about herself? What she does also irks me. Using travel as advertisement. Talking about what one does, without anything of value.
I understand... I understand one needs to make a living. I realized I need to make a living as well. I had accepted not making money all this time. It's not that I am sitting on my ass and not doing anything. It's not that I produce nothing of value in this world. What I write may not be mainstream, yet, it has to have a place and value.
I understand this is the way our world works today to make money. But seriously... This advertisement thing, this relying on promotion, this “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” is demeaning for the people and it is shaping our character and way of interaction in an awfully bad way. Please... Please... Please reward people of value.
In the article “How the Internet Turns Shopping into an Obsession” by Lauren O'Neill, Oct 15 2018, it says:
“Many people, myself included, deal with consumerist impulses. It's one thing to buy a treat when you've been paid, another to spend hundreds of dollars each month on shit due to a combination of boredom, low self-esteem, and materialism, just because it's easy.”
I know many people have consumerist impulses. We are primed to that impulse by our environment, by everything we are surrounded by. Please suppress your consumerist impulses. Please make the internet turn virtue into an obsession. I do not know how you do it, but do it. Stop the promotion and talk about values and wisdom perhaps, talk about special interactions.
You are supposed to see these people travelling to these wonderful exotic destinations, read how wonderful things they did, have your mouth water with their food photos and try to imitate them. Perhaps then, all your worries in life will fade. You will be a new person. It doesn't work out that way. Becoming takes hard work. Being a full and fulfilled person is lifetime work.
Travel and travel influencers today are overrated. Where are the travellers of once upon a time? The real journalists? I don't want to say there are none, but they certainly are hard to come by.
Just to end on a positive note...
Johnny Harris from Vox is doing a good job with his Borders documentary. But he is no travel influencer. “One World Many Cultures” by Stuart Hirschberg and Terry Hirschberg is a wonderful book, but it's not a bestseller. Let's promote people whose work bring wisdom, add value to us and our world.
PS: I don't have affiliate links, I will not be earning a fee if you click on any link here. So please consider contributing to my project of going to every country to burn my passports to protest global apartheid and birthplace racism. Thank you.
I don't talk from people's behind; I talk in front of them. Unfortunately, that gets me into a lot of trouble most of the time. People don't like hearing about their faults, even if they know it is true. It's fair. And understandable. But I like to interact with people who are mature enough to take valid criticism and being straight-forward provides me the chance to separate those who can from the ones who can't (or the chaff from the wheat) in a simple, easy way.
Jessica Nabongo is aiming to be the first black woman to travel to every country. Someone commented “I have little respect for this.” He put it very lightly. I have no respect at all for this. I'll be telling you why:
First of all, I see it as depreciating women and travel.
Second, it's a pissing match with no content.
Third and most importantly, it's a game, and they are playing a game without being aware of it being a game.
And all the meanwhile being a nasty player.
I'll give some more examples and reasons of my criticism. In the Conde Nast Traveler podcast, Jessica says “I really want to do something crazy. But something I can say I'm the only person who has done this. So a little bit of ego here...”
A little bit? Sorry but it seems to be “a big ego here” to me.
Look here at Jessica's post titled “In Seminyak? Dash to Dash Hotel”
Advertisement, I understand. But it really makes me want to puke. “Bunny and I had a lot of fun” ?? Really?? It's so cheesy. Sooo cheesy. Are people who look at those photos supposed to think “Woow, how wonderful! Let's go to Dash Hotel in Seminyak so that we get to play with that red bunny and have a lot of fun like Jessica”? Do people really think like that? Of course this is the idea of the hotel's management, but come on... Seriously? Is this the kind of world we want to promote? Is this the kind of behavior we want to incentivize people to? What kind of a world, what kind of a humanity are we trying to create?
Okay, I confess; I've been a part of that world. When I first came out to do a round-the-world tour in 2001 in Turkey, journalists made me pose and I obeyed. I was a naive duckling just of out uni; I did not know the outside world back then. I lived in my cocoon. Enveloped by family, health and personal troubles and the protected world of the university. I was carried away with the pace my life got, puzzled and unable to adjust after the relaxed uni life. I have to confess I reveled in the attention even though I was uneasy with my photos being taken. And so many at that. I had had quite enough. But they called saying the photo editor was not satisfied and wanted some more shoots. I was at a radio interview, they wanted to do it right away, so after the interview I headed out to the park they suggested to meet. I didn't get to choose what to wear. I had a mini-skirt on that day. So this is my memory of those cheesy photos.
I can never do that now.
In “My Life is Not a Vacation, It Just Looks Like It” (May 25, 2017) Jessica writes:
“Life for me is experiencing new foods and new cultures. Life for me is learning new languages and arguing in foreign languages. Life for me is experiencing the world with my closest friends. Life for me is taking calls in Bali with clients in New York. Life for me is setting goals of reaching Diamond Medallion on Delta Airlines. Life for me is about dreaming and achieving the impossible, off-the-beaten path.”
Reaching Diamond Medallion? Thanks, not interested at all. I mean I don't even know what it is; I suppose it is something related to the miles you earn, and I'm not interested the least bit. What for? So that I'd have done scurrying here and there, spent time in the air? Experiencing new foods and new cultures? I do not care about food, I eat to live. As for cultures, I travel and read to learn about the world. Learning new languages is fine but I have no interest in arguing in foreign languages. Life for me is raising a child with awareness, spending time with my family, reading-reflecting-writing. Life for me is trying to change the system. Life for me is making the world free for movement. Simple. I have no glorious goals. I am so off-the-beaten path that no mainstream media is ready to publish anything about me.
On her post “7 Reasons Adulting is the Worst!” (May 19th, 2017) Jessica writes:
“... can we please just go back to the days of not working 40+ hours a week and having to be responsible for the lives of little tiny human beings?”
So Jessica wants her friends not to have children or not to be responsible for them! And what for? So that they can go out, hang out. Woow, good for her. I mean I would have understood it if she had a child and expressed a feeling of not wanting to be responsible for that little tiny human being. I understand that. We all sometimes wish to shed our responsibilities because we are so burdened by them. But asking that of others is just so ego-centric. In my humble opinion of course. Or if she had said she wished she could go back to those days. That would have been understandable. We all have nostalgia. But this is so immature. Again imho of course.
But I feel like asking Jessica... Can we please not share half-naked photos in hotel rooms, pools, beaches and claim we are travelling the world? Can we please stop such advertising? It diminishes women. It takes away the value of travel.
Every time I read such news of women travelling to every country with such photos, I despair. Despair for the state of the world. Despair that such things are valued and there are so many people out there following this.
Anybody out there to claim I am jealous? Yes, I am jealous; I confess. I am jealous that these women get tens and hundreds of thousands of followers while I have merely a hundred. But I want to make something clear: I do not despair personally; I have everything I can ask for in this world. I despair for the state of the world. I despair that messages like mine do not catch on.
My husband tells me people do not look at the message. He recently put up a photo of both of us on FB because I use his account and it is sometimes awkward to write as a woman with the name Carlo. My posts about borders, visas don't generally get any likes, one or two if they do. We got 40 likes on our photo.
Carlo says “Jesus had only twelve followers.”
“Yeah, he has billions now,” I commented sarcastically.
“It took thousands of years. You give your message some time to take hold.”
“I don't have thousands of years,” I laughed.
So shall I stick out my nipples too and post such photos? I actually considered it. I imagined what reactions it would get. It definitely would get a reaction. And that's the important thing in our age. Just as long as you are talked about. But neeaah, I won't be doing that. It's not me. Still, I might consider it as a last resort. If I do not get anywhere in a couple of years. Just to give it a try and see. Out of curiosity; as a test.
Or shall I advertise myself as the first Muslim Turkish woman? Sal Lavallo is a Muslim I suppose, there may also be some Turkish men who claim to have been to every country even though I know they count, let alone stop-overs, transits without even getting off the airplane. Anyway, definitely no woman out there who is Muslim (at least on paper) or Turkish.
Well... I'm not after such firsts. Not interested. I claim to be the first to go out with a meaningful purpose. To abolish visas and for freedom of movement. What is travel about? What are borders? What are countries? How are borders drawn but by bloody war or bloody politics? Why do we honor them? Why do those “travellers” who go to every country profit from it? Use and abuse it to their advantage? Is that what travelling is about? Is that what we should get out of travel? What is travelling for if not an understanding of the world and humans living on this planet of ours?
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
This is not a criticism of travel or travellers. I'm a traveller myself and have respect for anyone travelling for its own sake. Even for breaking a record. I have nothing against Gunnar Garfors who is the first and youngest hobby traveller to go to every country. On the contrary, I believe he is doing a good job on his website. I have nothing against Oysterboy. He is actually Jakob from Denmark. Calls himself Oysterboy. He is doing a very good job on his website too.
“My ambition once was to be the youngest Danish person to visit every country in the world. I failed. Presently 3 (viking) Danes have already visited them all.
My next ambition was to be the youngest hobby traveler to go everywhere. I failed again (Norwegian Gunnar Garfors beat me to it finishing at 37 years and 344 days).
My present ambition is to be the youngest hobby and family traveler to visit every country in the world. Hobby meaning I have a normal job and pay for everything myself. Family meaning that I have a beautiful girlfriend and two fantastic kids that I try to bring as often as possible.
Maybe someone will beat me to that as well. Flight tickets are getting cheaper and entry visas easier to obtain. Record or no record – I could not have dreamt of a better life than this.”
See? This is just reasonable and human. Portrays a nice human being. By the way, Jakob has some wonderful photos. If interested in photos, I suggest you check them out. (Take it from someone who has almost zero interest in visuals.) He has, even if not so extraordinary, stories too. Human stories. Ordinary life stories. And he tells it as they are, not pretentious.
Let's come to Garfors. “Hurrah! World Record Beaten” (February 4, 2018)
What's the world record this time? They “circumnavigated the globe via the six inhabited continents faster than anyone else.”
Gunnar writes: “But why the hell did we do it? I’ll let Ronald answer,” and continues:
“We did this to have fun, to inspire people to explore the world and to show that even big dreams can come true. Travelling 43,000 kilometers at an average speed of 750 km/h, with loads of good stories thrown in, has made this the ultimate boys’ trip.
But it wasn’t all fun and play. We also raised money for The Simple Drinking Water Foundation in the UK. It provides clean water technology to developing countries.
And yes, we have compensated for our CO2 emissions.”
I don't find their goals so meaningful but they are not claiming it is, they are not trying to portray themselves as something else than what they are. They are just boys having fun. And doing something good meanwhile. This is just fine.
But look at the fundraising campaign of Graham. He says:
“I visited every nation in the world without flying for WaterAid because Access to clean water should be a human right.”
Sorry, he didn't visit every nation for that. He did it for his ego. Nothing wrong with that. But there's everything wrong with using a charity or an organization to your ends. Well, or maybe there is nothing wrong with that either. After all, it was a mutual agreement and at least some people got a message and money has been raised for WaterAid even if not a lot. Perhaps it's a symbiotic relationship. Better than none. Publicity is important and one plus one makes a bit more than the parts alone. Still... Hypocrisy is wrong and bad. Just say you are also trying to raise money for Water Aid, trying to help a good cause while you are travelling. Like some marathons where you run and people donate to charities of your choice to support you. Then it's fair game.
Thor is at least honest in this sense saying that he wasn't into it much at the beginning but now he cares very much about the Red Cross.
Look at Cassie De Pecol... Yeah, she is licensing herself as a brand alright. Wearing cool dresses, showing off as if in a podium, showing off a camera. Then promoting hotels... Give me a free room and I'll advertise you on my site. Oh it's “Luxury Lodging” of course, who else pays, or rather can pay for such advertisement?
“A series of personal reviews of luxury accommodations that Cassie has been sponsored by throughout her travels.” A photo of her sitting in a bathrobe, with a flower in her hair, reaching out for the exotic fruit basket.
“I choose to live my life in a unique way. To live in iconic, low key lifestyle where I do what I want, when I want, and inspire those along the way.” – Cassie De Pecol
Yeah yeah, she chooses that! She does what she wants when she wants. Oh my God, what a respectable choice! What a perfect thing to inspire people to do. Just brushing aside the fact that many people do not have that luxury of doing what they want let alone when they want.
Going back to Graham... He wrote:
“This isn’t just about sending plumbers to the slums of India or engineers to rural Africa to dig wells, it is about persuading the United Nations and the governments of the world to prioritise the delivery of safe water and proper sanitation and to make it a basic human right.”
Really? Is it? Is Graham still promoting that message? Is he trying to do anything about the topic? Anything to persuade the UN? No, of course not. The Oddysey is finished, he has reached his goal, he no longer needs the anchor.
I'll still be banging about freedom of movement, ending injustice at birth, ending birthplace racism, ending global apartheid even after I finish my #Mission2EveryCountry. You think I'll ever stop? NO. I'll be going on about it -free movement on the world we are born to be an inalienable human right- as long as I have breath in me. Of course unless a brick falls on my head and makes me a completely different person. This is something I care about deeply, so deeply from the bottom of my heart, so deeply as to wish to devote my whole life to it. (Only second to my daughter and husband; naturally.)
Defining people by the imaginary line they are born in, what's more, defining their radius of movement again by that line is nothing but madness." Gülin De Vincentiis
Having an Issue
I feel bad, in a way, implying my cause is better; but I cannot help myself. Perhaps I am also the pot calling the kettle black. I feel bad about criticizing these people so harshly. But I cannot help myself with that either.
My husband asked how many travellers were heading for every country.
“A couple of thousand,” I answered.
“How many of those do you have an issue with?” he asked.
Well, just a couple. Basically those who are exploiting travel to their ends and promoting completely “wrong” values and messages. (Of course that's my wrong; and I'm totally aware that my wrong can be the right of others.) So as my husband pointed out... I have an issue with only a small percentage of travellers out there. It's just a couple of people among thousands. Unfortunately, most of them turn out to be females. I wish it was not so. I wish I didn't feel obliged to write neither this piece nor the other one.
Oh sorry, I actually have something against almost all travellers. What's that? None of them seem to question borders and nationalities. But I do not blame them. Coming mostly from Western countries, they have not been exposed to such racism to feel it on their skin. I did because I was travelling on a Turkish passport and because I was faced with ridiculous visa requirements one after the other. And even I came to that conclusion only after travelling to a hundred countries. Questioning the status-quo is not easy; it's not something we do regularly and out of the blue. But once you start seeing the world through that lens of birthplace racism, there is no going back. The birthplace racism, the injustice of it is just so crystal clear before your eyes.
But now, where does that take me?
Where Do I Belong?
On his FB profile Ryan Gazder says “A transcendental wanderer who can hold telepathic discussions with animals. Not so good with humans.” I burst out laughing when I read that. I am the same. I mean I'm not good with humans. But I cannot hold telepathic discussions with animals either, so he is much better off.
“I'm not good with humans but they give me headaches acting the way they do; what can I do?”
I smiled when I heard my other self, the one deeper than myself. I was just making myself a different species, different from humans. Or the homo-imbecilus as I call them. As for me... “I'm an alien. I'm a legal alien... I'm a Turkish woman in Rome...”
It doesn't rhyme with the Englishman in New York :(
But I'm truly an alien...
Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto... I'm not from this solar system. Not even from the farthest planet. I'm not even from this galaxy. I don't know where I've come here from, I don't know what mistake, what technical failure of a mother-ship dropped me here on this Earth, but I am here and I exist too. #IWantToBelong
Can I fit in? Can I fit into the traveller community? Unfortunately, the way things are, that's quite doubtful. They won't take me in as one of them. They won't interview me, publish me, back me up. They'll go after Jessica and the like. That's what sells. Who cares about a Turkish woman going to every country to burn passports to protest Birthplace Racism?
Actually my question should have been "Do I want to fit in?" The answer is simple. NO. And loud: NO! I have no wish at all to fit into a community who doesn't care about freedom of movement.
Yet... Yet I'm sure there are those among them, even if few, who might care. And this message is for them: Would you join me so we can be a community of travellers, or just a community of people upholding freedom of movement as an inalienable right?