One of the top things I wanted to do when I got to Australia was to see and drive the great Ocean road. First of all, it’s basically just the most wonderful piece of coastline in the world, with nothing but stunning views of the beautiful ocean. And I am definitely an ocean child. Secondly, it was about driving this mythical road. The turns and turns of the asphalt, right next to cliffs, all drowning in the blue of the ocean, the salty air and the sun. I honestly can say that it was one if the best drives of my life. Ok, may be not Nullabor drive, but it was wonderful. I listened to Elvis Presley and the Beach boys (yes, I’m rather old school), sang along, had the windows pulled down and had to constantly remind myself to look at the road and not at the glory of the ocean.
That part was not disappointing. It was every bit as exhilarating as I thought it would be. The tragedy began when I started to pull over to look at the main “attractions” on the road. The arch. The 12 apostles. The grotto. That was just mass tourism at its worst.
To be fair, I just came from 4 months in the less touristy part of Australia. 3 months in Western Australia where I didn’t meet any other European but for the people I was working with. Working in deserted farms, in the middle of national parks, feeling blissfully lost in my adventures. It was all about going out of my comfort zone, getting dirty working the earth. Drinking beers with the locals, going to endless beautiful beaches where I could see only my footprints when leaving after hours of staring at the ocean and writing. I was naively unaware in those first few months to what extend Australia was touristic. I just experienced the wildest, loneliest part, and I loved every miles of it.
And suddenly, I was thrown in the area. Without so much as a warning. Without a big city to get into before, without expectations and without defenses. And then it was endless buses filled with tourists which kept on arriving at my little spot on the beach. I didn’t get a second by myself.
And it was always the same. 50 people would go down. With big hats, high uncomfortable heels, big cameras. They would walk powerfully to where the “thing” was. Whatever that was.
Beach, ocean, rocks. The “thing” they came to see. And snap snap snap pictures pictures pictures. Some pictures of the “thing” itself, but the great majority were selfies. That’s when I discovered the selfie stick by the way. Thousands of them. And everybody was just fake smiling for the pictures. Because it wasn’t enough to prove that you made it there, to show a picture of the THING. You had to show yourself with the thing, because, after all, it’s all about you.
And it just made me SO sad. All those people. Who had traveled from so far, spent so much money to BE here, not even stopping a SECOND to just LOOK AT IT. I swear some of them didn’t even bothered. Came, took a picture of it, took a picture of themselves with it, left. Not ONCE did they pause to look at that incredible beauty right in the face and not through a screen.
And I know it makes me sound old and grumpy. “aaah all those young folks don’t know what life is anymore”. And maybe it’s true. Don’t get me wrong. I am a digital nomad. I have Instagram and Twitter accounts and I travel blog. I believe technology has a lot to offer. And yes, I am a bit of a snob. I am a traveler and not a tourist. But tourism is fine. I have nothing against tourism. It expands your horizons and broadens your mind.
But you have to give it a chance. Let yourself be amazed. Look at things. Be there, in the moment. What I witnessed there was not being there in the moment. It was business. The business of being there, of showing yourself.
It made me sad but it didn’t bring me down. I just sat there. Looking at it all. Breathing it in. And it was glorious.
If you want to know what it was like in my little car, just listen to it 🙂