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Anthropologist’s travel

Posted July. 19, 2014 07:11,   


Have you ever traveled to an impoverished country? Have you ever bragged and behaved arrogantly in such a country. Most travel guidebooks and essays reflect the visitor’s sense of supremacy over local populations. These books simply look sweet because they showcase individualistic emotionalism. Things are described more beautifully and as being more prosperous than the reality.

How would an anthropologist’s travel be different from ordinary people’s? An anthropologist commingles with natives. He tries to look at the world from local residents’ perspective. He harmonizes with local people, and embraces without hesitance strange customs, culture, and thoughts. He is merely a wanderer, and it is gaffe if he causes inconvenience to locals.

The writer, Robert Gordon, is an anthropology professor at the University of Vermont in the U.S. He lived in Namibia, Lesotho, South Africa and Papua New Guinea in good harmony with natives there. He travelled to dozens of countries worldwide. His travel is humble and modest. He knows very well how trivial being he is. Nevertheless, he is not a naïve idiot. His analects on travel are full of cutting and witty remarks.

Headings include "Do not try to save money on shoes," "Do not bring any item that you cannot carry alone," "Avoid talks about sex, politics and religions wherever possible," "It is desirable not to heed to locals’ advice when it comes to medicine," "Stay vigilant even staying at a hotel room at night," "Assume first that all water is polluted." "Suspect men who are approaching you first," "Beware of drinks offered by a stranger because it could contain poison,” “In addition to its original utility, condom has as many as 72 different uses, including emergency water tank, protector for the camera and mobile phone, tourniquet, and mouth-to-mouth artificial respiration tool,” and “Picture not only typical tourist attractions, but also the most boring routine things as well.”

The writer urges: “Meet face to face with locals and communicate with them. Participate in their lives, and listen to what they say. Travelers in modern world instantly record using digital devices, and mindlessly move to other places fast. They only capture things that they like and move to other places. They always seek shortest cut everywhere. They depend on media and others even for what they see and hear. Now, overseas travel has become a "kind of communication," and "we live in an era when we do have our own experience.”