This was something that crossed my mind first, when I was on my 3rd trip to Hanoi, Vietnam. It was a brief thought, and I just pushed it out of my mind at that time.
I again had this same thought, when I was looking back at my first trip to Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnam – where I went around with a tour guide. Having been back there a few times as well, I’ve started to notice how some of the places I’ve been brought to, wasn’t an exact depiction of the way of life. Yet at that time, I felt I was experiencing something new.
What is it within us, that allows us to be deceived into believing we are experience something. Something meaningful, or something enlightening, or something that’s broadening our view.
Am not saying that every place is the same. Surely every town/city/country has a uniqueness about them. With globalisation, trade, flights, etc, the world has become smaller though, and broadly, every place is moving in the same direction, just at different speeds.
Yet, we hold on to this idea that when we travel, we are going to see people doing things completely different. Or we will get to experience something we couldn’t back home. Most of this is about the culture of the place, the olden times of the people there. Back when different cultures didn’t interact as much. But this can’t hold true today. Even when you see people doing things different, it isn’t because they don’t know. It’s because they can’t.
On my first trip to both Hanoi, I remember walking through some streets, where people were wearing traditional clothes, and selling ethnic trinkets. Of course, this is just claimed to be ethnic these days, as most are made in a factory with modern machines. At the end of the day, they head back home, change into their shorts and t-shirt, and turn on the TV to see a subbed/dubbed western movie. And I went home thinking – I am now worldly, having seen how people live different lives.
Similarly on the first trip to a traditional village in Buon Ma Thuot, I was shown houses on stilts, with corrugated roofing. I went back again thinking how people live such a different life in this town. Having stayed there a few times, I realised it was just that street, which just hasn’t “upgraded” yet. Because just one street over, people in the same town were living in concrete and glass housing. They still rode out to the same shops, and bought the same drinks/food that I would get back home.
All this just comes down to me wanting to find something new to experience. It became easy for my to overlook certain basic understanding, to allow myself to only see the illusion before me.
The closest analogy I could think of, is an Airport. Have you ever notice how, in an airport, the signs you see are always different depending on whether you are arriving or departing? It is still the same airport, the same walkways, the same gates. Yet somehow you see it differently. That’s how it is when we see the new things. I see what I wanted to see, even though it was still the same.
Tour offices are aware of this. They give us just enough, for us to feel like we’ve seen something unique. So they would bring you to the most convenient place, that would fulfill that part of us. Leaving us thinking we’ve had an almost spiritual awakening. They also include scripts that are carefully written to give you that impression.
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