Daft travel buzzwords are killing the romance of travel and mangling the English language. When did you last go brokepacking or on a spafari?
By SUSAN KUROSAWA
Whatever happened to classic travel and simple terms?
I AM so old I can remember the days when marketing meant going shopping for fruit and vegetables with a string bag and a spa was a bubbling hot tub in which men with moustaches and gold chains leered at their lady companions.
Marketing in the 21st-century is all about pillars and silos and touching base and reaching out and made-up words such as diarise. The contemporary travel landscape is dotted with phrases that have become glib catch-cries for all manner of pursuits and pleasures and, by their over-use, are rendered meaningless. Take any Asian resort's spa menu, for example, and you will find mumbo-jumbo galore about wellness journeys. Surely a journey, by nature, means progressing with some level of discovery and delight from points A and B, and shouldn't that be a teensy bit farther than from your hair follicles to your feet? Apparently not. One must suspend disbelief in the Age of Neologisms and embrace concepts as daffy as staycations and babymoons. And don't get me started on junior suites – surely they should come with playpens.
Recently I read about
Asia's budding hero destinations and wondered what it would be like to go
to such places
and meet a whole heap of saviours, possibly at a civic reception to celebrate
Recently I read about Asia's hero destinations and wondered what it would be like to go to such places and meet a whole heap of saviours, possibly at a civic reception to celebrate their bravery. Then I realised the phrase refers to cities that stand head-and-shoulders above the throng in tourism terms – Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, fabulous hang-outs they may be, but not necessarily capitals of heroic endeavour, unless the city fathers are considering rewarding rush-hour survivors of their respective metro systems with gold medals.
The collision of words, the truncation of phrases, the insertion of capital letters where they have no business to be (whatever were the InterContinental folk thinking) and the use of the @ symbol to display a heightened grooviness that will appeal to Gen-Y... where does it all end? I thought we had reached the depths of nutty nomenclature with the soft adventure and safari company &Beyond and The W hotel chain but, no, I have just visited a new Italian indoor marketplace in New York City called Eataly. You try saying that to a Manhattan taxi driver and not sounding like a bad comic from the Catskills... although maybe it's just a matter of pointing your iPad in its general direction and beaming in the Yellow Cab. Mind you, I am so technologically retarded that my sons want to donate my 2005 cellphone to The Smithsonian. I probably should aspire to be an iMom, the sort of switched-on chick who practises jetiquette on board a plane, would rather like to take a voluntourism holiday and is saving for a Sofitel MyBed. I do not want to experience sluggage, however, which apparently is what happens on slow airport carousels, nor am I ready for grey nomad tourism.
No longer do we simply backpack. We brokepack if we are really on a shoestring budget or flashpack if funds allow. We take flightseeing tours aboard helicopters and go on surgical safaris to South Africa to get our noses straightened, our teeth whitened and our lady bosoms lifted heavenwards. We could even mix medical with massage and go on a spafari, if we could pronounce it without sounding like a member of the Springboks.
Educational trips have become edventures and if we are interested in war cemeteries and sites we are battlefield tourists. Follow a movie trail and we become cinetourists. If we lust for spiffing rural piles where tweedy chaps have heads like rocking horses and the women smell of hay, then we are country-house hotel junkies. If we like the safety-net security of tents with teak floors and flushing lavatories, but still relish a bit of fresh air and the illusion of roughing it, we are soft adventurers or glampers. If we prefer to knit shelters from our underarm hair and bathe in croc-filled billabongs, or simply stay in yurts and use gluten-free soap and drink triple-distilled pond water, then we are ecotourists.
Nobody is just a plain old tourist any more. We must attach to our travels a sense of quest, the sheen of real pursuit. But in being so purposeful, are we forgetting that real travel is all about the dreamt-of, the unknown and the unexpected. When I was a teenager, I imagined what it would be like to stay in a motel – and perhaps the jaunty condensing of motor-hotel was, in fact, one of the first examples of travel jargon? It was a word that sang of shiny convertibles with sexy fins and Elvis on the radio. I was sure that if my parents ever let me stay in one it would instantly improve my ability to do the Twist and chew gum while I ate hot dogs.
Way back then, a motel was my Shangri-la and the world was my oyster, even it probably did come with melted cheese and a glass of sweet white wine with a nun on the label. A window of opportunity was a good seat on a coach on the continent and a gap year probably meant you were waiting for a new set of false teeth. I was not prepared then to be categorised and classified, and neither am I today. Bring on a brave new age when we can just be travellers again, free of the constraints of categories and labels. Otherwise, stop the world, please, I wanna de-plane.
Susan Kurosawa has been the travel editor of The Australian, a national broadsheet newspaper, since 1992. She has written seven non-fiction books, including the best-seller Coasting, about her sea-change to the NSW central coast. Susan has lived and worked in England , Hong Kong and Japan, and is a frequent visitor to India, the setting for her debut novel, Coronation Talkies, released by Penguin. She broadcasts on Radio 2UE in Sydney and is the travel editor of WISH magazine. Coronation Talkies has been optioned for a movie.
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