Tourist Trap

Travelling, they say, opens the mind. Not in a directly spiritual way (unless you are consuming class A drugs), but rather in the way that new experiences are meant to lead to new ways in which to perceive the world. You are supposed to meet people you’ve never met, eat food you’ve never eaten, and see things you’ve never seen. Unless, of course, you can’t meet people because your high school French disappeared along with your textbook—last seen as a fire-starter; all you can afford is a ham and cheese sandwich, and you can’t go and ‘see things’ because your suitcase was lost and now you have to brave near-negative temperatures in a t-shirt and jersey. Cursed? Probably—I may have discarded God a little too quickly in my younger days. That doesn’t mean I’m not superstitious; indeed, it seems that something else was happening while travelling, something outside of my spiritual paranoia.

The epiphany came to me while trying to find the perfect angle to take a picture of the Eiffel Tower. The predicament was: how do I take a picture of this skyward metal structure that no one else has taken before? How do I become the next internet inspiration, a trending purveyor of global tastes, with one photograph? Of course, about four hundred other tourists, adequately representative of humanity’s diversity, were also trying to take that photograph. We traversed our vast differences by our wish to become famous. Not for the last time, a buoyant celebrity culture brought people together and made the world a better place, if only for a moment. That moment ended when I came across a hawker selling postcards of the Eiffel Tower. The photograph on the postcard was exquisite—it gave a full view of the Tower, rising from the smog of Paris. It was something I couldn’t recreate. I daren’t recreate it. Most importantly, there were no people in this picture. No celebrities, no four hundred people with bigger cameras than mine. This should have been my ticket to fame. That was the moment I realised I was in a tourist trap.

What is a tourist trap? Typically, it is considered a place created for legal and legitimate robbery by providing services, entertainment, food and souvenirs that no one needs (how many 25cm replica Eiffel Towers does the world require?) The list goes on, but I thought a postcard would be exempt. Nay, it seems like the law of economics is never in my favour. This got me thinking: maybe it isn’t so much that I’m cursed, but I’m at the receiving end of a long-running joke about economics in poor taste. That would explain my bank balance and the state of my haircut simultaneously. Not to say that the Eiffel Tower is the cause of worldwide poverty, but in a parallel universe, I wouldn’t say that it is too wild an idea.

And so, in an act of solidarity with myself and the poor of said parallel universe, I took a bad photograph of the Eiffel Tower. My folks could have been more impressed, expecting better of their son. It is another waste of potential. I did, however, buy a 25cm replica of the Eiffel Tower for them, which now sits next to that bad photograph of the Eiffel Tower. Ha! The joke’s on them or me… I don’t know—perhaps all I did was bring the tourist trap home with me, the hidden pandemic of our age. Well, whatever the costs, all I know is that I’m glad to be home.

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Sebastian can usually be found eating strawberries and cream at your nearest tennis club.

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