The dictionary definition of a tourist as a person who makes a tour for pleasure or culture is inefficient and leaves very many aspects of touring uncovered considering Jamaica Kincaid’s travel journal, Among flowers. The definition is also limiting to pleasure and cultural issues so anything outside that I think should not be considered tourism. This also contradicts much of the experiences that Kincaid’s undergoes in her journey to the foothills of Himalaya in search for uncommon plants to plant in her Vermont garden.
Kincaid’s brings out her account of a life changing plant hunting expedition in Nepal in a poetic manner. It is poetic because what promises to be a literary trek through some of the worlds highest peaks, ends up feeling like a slow walk down an endless walk. We expect that there should be a lot of description about the mountains and the rivers that she crossed for fun; we are met with introspective whining. The pages of the book are supposed to introduce us to new places and new cultures embraced by the people but we are met by how self possessed she was and had no interest in anything around her unless it was of use in regard to whatever that she went to look for.
From the onset, the definition is limiting and does not cover all aspects of tourism. From the definition there are two fundamental reasons as to why one will go out to tour and that is for pleasure and cultural exploration. The best type of companions in for this to be a success is a spouse, family or intimate friends so that the activity is filled with fun in an aura filled activity environment. Contrary to this experience she is accompanied with her botanical friends’ maybe to help her identify the rare plants that she was looking for. So from the onset we realize that what she is going for is not purely pleasure but surely an epic journey with counterparts who are not going to tell her anything to do with the culture or any pleasurable moments.
Kincaid’s experiences of being a tourist
Kincaid is self absorbed in that she took no interest in what was around her unless it was of interest. She is having a good grasp of Latin but the plants she comes across refers them by the role that they played in relation to her. For instance it is in record that, ‘the man who prepared her meals was “the cook” and the one who carried her table was “table”.’ She is not bothered to learn about the culture of the Nepal people because she considers them not ready to learn her culture also. This shows that the dictionary definition of the term tourist is limiting because if someone is to learn of the culture of other people then embracing it is very important more so when in their land. Kincaid cares not for this because she puts firs her mission of collecting seeds. The definition of a tourist in this regard should encompass that people who go out to achieve self interests are also touring.
When one goes out touring, the person is likely to engage in activities that he/she loves doing. According to Kincaid, this is the time that one has to achieve self pleasure and also discover more about self and then proving to self that some things may not stand on your way in getting those things that you like so much. For example she says that, “this account of a walk was meant to gather seeds of flowering plants in the foothills of Himalayan, and it is initiated by my love of a garden and my love of feeling isolated; imagining my self all alone in the world and everything unfamiliar or even the familiar looking strange and for my love of being afraid but not letting the fear to stand on my way.” It is clear that tourism is for fulfilling self interests at the same time proving to self that some obstacles are not really worth in stopping someone from reaching and fulfilling the self interests.
Kincaid’s physical and emotional experiences
The group really prepared for the journey that it was not to be that easy and really they face a lot of challenges. As they alighted from a plane in the Annapurna valley, they met with Maoist guerillas in camouflaged fatigues and this goes on for three weeks. This was stressful for Kincaid and her group and she also met bearers crossing spectacular landscapes, Nepalese villagers and herds of yaks in SherpasMountains. This proves another point that touring can be a fear inflicting exercise even when prepared. Even if the experiences inflicted a lot of fear to the group of botanists, they are fascinated by their daily botanical discoveries and the lyrical musings on gardens, and nature showing that nothing is likely to stop one in his/her mission of touring.
Laborious training and preparation is recorded in the story. This connotatively implies that in any touring journey one has to set objectives which should be achieved by the end of the touring period. Some knowledge is to be gained on what you expect once you go out so that it is not a mission of fulfilling surprises.
Kincaid loves being afraid; this is clearly brought out when they are in the plane she feels that they are going to collide from the topography of the environment and one of the pilots has diverted his attention to reading a newspaper. Her fears are turned down by one of her accompaniments when she is assured that the pilots have that habit and there is no looming danger. Danger again springs up when they are unable to land at small airport at Tumlingtar because of large groups of Maoists in camouflage fatigues. This proves that touring is a fear filled exercise and it entails taking challenges that sometimes if not careful we can be taken down by them. From this incident we learn that though, Kincaid loved fear she is not brought down by any of this cunning exercises.
At the airport the Maoists are threatening to attack but they wait for a plane for a total of three days and the temperatures are 98 degrees Celsius. This is really unbearable but shows us that some experiences require courage and therefore in tourism this is a risk taking activity and nothing is supposed to deter us from getting our catch.
Insights from the travel
Tourism is not for pleasure but it is a risk taking activity which requires psychological preparedness into getting to a lot of problems. Prior training should also be done to ensure that the right accompaniments are carried and any safety implements for self defense from un-cooperating weather conditions and the environment. For Kincaid everything on this trip requires more effort than the usual and sometimes even instills anxiety from eating, sleeping to bathing. She records of intoxicating meals that she ate and sleepless nights that she underwent were not a happy moment of accompanying botanists to a mission which was basically theirs. Therefore not all touring experiences are memorable for good things but others are full of memoirs.
The culture of other people sometimes may not be worth emulation because she finds herself developing no distinction between the Maoists and the leeches. She found it very uncomfortable in living in a village under the control of people who may let one live or the opposite. This brings out the message that not all cultures are welcome and not all touring experiences may be smooth but marred by multiple problems even from the sources that you may be expecting some consolation.
Regardless of her wacky writing technique, or rather because of it, she manages to capture the mysterious atmosphere of her surroundings and the frustrations of seed collecting combined with the real danger of confronting Maoist guerillas. Therefore tourism can be defined as going out to satisfy personal needs as per a particular time which is adventurous and risk taking.