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Everybody hates a tourist

Jarvis Cocker’s lyrics are excellent to take out of context.

On my recent trip to Zimbabwe I was unsure of what to expect. The media excels on hatchet jobs and some places lend themselves to this treatment better than others. So it was time to travel with an open mind rather than harbouring any preconceived ideas of what might lie in store. In many ways this reminded me of some of my first forays in Africa and although back then I was naive and carrying my own rucksack rather than staying in wonderful camps and lodges, it took a different mind-set from simply turning up, taking some photos and then leaving again.

Surely the point of travelling is to experience the destination rather than superficially gliding through in a bubble and viewing everything through a camera? On these travels I frequently meet others who are approaching Africawith a tick-box mentality – they will say they have “Done Botswana” and “Namibia is next on the list”. What defines having “done” a country; is it simply having spent a day in Chobe as one particular couple had?

In many ways a tourist is a net exporter of experience in return for cash, whereas a traveller gets under the skin of the country, learns the culture, makes friends and asks questions that start with “why” rather than “what”. The overall experience for a traveller is rewarding rather than expensive.

It is important to remember that most people on the ground working in the tourism industry do so because first and foremost they are passionate about their country; its landscapes and wildlife and they are keen to meet people from all round the world and share experiences. The fact that our money often goes further than the local currency should not be seen as awkward so long as that money goes into supporting community projects and work on the ground rather than to some faceless emotive charity. At Steppes Travel we work with projects in each of the countries around the world that we visit and try to make a real difference. By doing this we get more out of our experiences and so do the locals.