derogatory. A white person from an English-speaking country (used in Spanish-speaking regions, chiefly Latin America).
Okay, I admit it, I hate gringos sometimes.
They wear silly woolen llama-pattern adorned hats and jumpers and tributary Incan patterned leggings. They haggle over 20 cents because they’re terrified that they are copping the ‘Gringo Tax’. Some of them won’t even leave their insular, horny pommy-teenager-packed party hostels until they’ve checked what’s number one on TripAdvisor.
And my god, they speak embarrassing Spanish.
But… despite my generalising, I am one. I have a llama jumper (albeit smattered with tiny llamas, barely visible). Someone even got me into TripAdvisor, which has provided more than one adequate cup of coffee. I still don’t like the Poms in the party hostels though, sorry. See below for an example why…
Which simply leaves me thinking, why am I worried about anyone else? Apart from the horrendous fashion (which is frankly inexcusable) we should all just be happy to be doing what we are doing.
There’s no right or wrong way to travel.
Lately though, just occasionally, I can’t help it, I’ve still caught myself looking down my nose at the tourists that fill up the places I want to see. I’m sure it isn’t just me, we all do this don’t we? Like suburban couples gossiping about one anothers’ boring suburban lives. Unfortunately too, it seems that the ‘best’ experiences are usually the most expensive and touristy too. Life just isn’t fair!
After considering all of this, I found myself leaving La Paz a few weeks ago in search of something that would be a little more ‘authentic’ to my travel than just going and eating the market food. I wanted to experience something outside of just being asked if I’d ‘done’ it: “Have you done the Death Road yet?”, “Have you done the jungle?”, “You can’t miss them, they’re amazing, life changing…” The thing is, I’m not suggesting they’re not amazing, I’ve been to the tourist traps myself, it’s just that sometimes I want to work harder, search for something a bit different. Okay, so I might not get a t-shirt at the end but I can look at your photos right? Sometimes I’d prefer to be standing next to a Bolivian at a street food stand or hearing about the life of a generous Chilean as we rocket along the highway and I score a free ride. For me, this is a richer experience than rappelling down the side of a skyscraper, dressed as Wonderwoman.
Ultimately though, that’s just my travel experience. It’s about people finding what they want to do and them suiting their own needs. I’ve spoken to hundreds, maybe thousands of travellers and the fact is that everyone is different. Some people, for example, don’t hitchhike for concern for their own safety, that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their own travel adventure. Perhaps except you-know-who.
I think, to some extent, I did mange to find a little bit of what I was looking for in the past few weeks. and I admit, there is still a strange sense of pride for me that comes from being the only gringo on the bus…
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Share your comments below.
[Featured photo credit: Gabor Basch, Flickr]