I don't talk from people's backs; 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 out of 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?