A recent blog posting by Michael Phillips on the value of tourism in a local economy has caused me to remember my thoughts about a certain aspect of the tourist trade which I have found disturbing.
From a certain point of view, it seems to me, that, in essence, almost all tourism, the vacation business, the "get-away-from-it-all" type of concept is nothing more than an illusion.
After all, what is a person left with after their dream vacation? They step into a fantasy world for a few hours, days or weeks in which they pretend to live a life they cannot hope to continue living, and in the end return to a dull, dreary, routine, often in debt to pay for their brief fantasy over the next few months or longer.
Now, I wonder if most people wouldn't be better served, wouldn't have much more rewarding lives, if, instead of trying to escape from their drudgery for a couple of weeks a year, they were to invest the same amount of time, energy and enthusiasm into looking for and developing some purpose and meaning in their lives as a whole.
Phillips blog spoke of the economic value in just one local economy. When I imagine the enormous worldwide economic value of tourism, vacation travel, tourist services, financing costs, and every thing else involved, including the enormous number of people who earn their livelihood working in these fields it makes me wonder how different the world might be if all this were directed to improving the human condition, rather than simply attempting to escape from it, or providing an escape.
On a very simplistic level, there may not be much difference between a person running an opium den and a person who provides some tourist service: they are both catering to a weakness of their client and helping them to avoid reality.
I am not judging the people who own or work in tourist-related activities as being bad, and I'm certainly not passing any moral judgment on anyone or their activities, but I am wondering how the world would be different if there were a shift in focus from escapism to a search for meaning and growth.