Not your average travel blog
This morning three cruise ships docked downtown and Broadway was bombarded with over 10,000 visitors. A few hundred people live here year round and varied reports average around 2000 in the summer months to cope with the tourism. Like many other towns around Alaska, it survives solely because of cruise ship traffic, much of which only visits between breakfast to dinner for a handful of months a year. There are so few, year-round locals here that’s fairly difficult to see or experience any “local” culture. The lifestyle and economy is totally dictated by the ships and without them, towns like Skagway wouldn’t exist. Everything here would be in a similar state to the camouflaged remnants of Dyea – swallowed up by the expanding forest after the gold rush.
Although I understand its appeal, I can’t find it in me to appreciate a cruise ship holiday. It’s lazy! However, I guess that’s entirely the point. Most locals I speak to have an extreme love/hate relationship with the stalwart of their town’s economy and this feeling is replicated the world over where tourism is relied upon. I think I’m too industrious for a cruise, for a lazy holiday, for downtime that comes with no decisions. I’d only want to disembark and explore well beyond the harbours they take you to. I’ve realised that it’s not the sailing or the intrepid journey that I am against, but being stuck on a floating hotel with so many other herded sheep who are so restricted to the schedule. In the last two years I have realised that what I’m doing is not a holiday, least of all a cruise. I’m carving a lifestyle filled with difficult, often barely lucrative choices. It means I can continue to travel after the boat docks…but only just. It’s tricky on small budgets and I have never tried to make it glamorous, but accomplishments and acquisitions while on the road are appreciated even more. When you rely on very little, when there is no constant job to pay for a holiday, when the holiday becomes the job, it stops being both of those things. It’s the same when your sport becomes your profession – it’s both a dream and a nightmare together. Lifestyle remains a constant succession of decisions and if we’re all honest with ourselves, I think most of us would at least love try to have a constant holiday if we a) could afford it and b) had the balls to stop doing everything else. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to follow dreams without sacrifice, no matter now wonderful or romanticised they may appear from a far.
Do I feel like I’m on holiday? No. Do I think it’s sometimes as nauseating as being on a cruise ship? Never. Am I working at living unconventionally? Yes, hard. Is it easier than getting a job and doing it for forty five years? I don’t think so, but I know which one would kill me first.
Coming across other travellers is fairly common (especially the “spiritual, lightheaded, seekers” that you just want to head butt), but coming across lazy holidayers that forget normal common sense is almost a daily occurrence. They walk slower, stop in inappropriate places, wander around as if traffic laws don’t apply to them, ask stupid questions as if things shouldn’t exist outside of their home country, judge local practices and are regularly unprepared. It’s hard not to distinguish or judge holidayers when you spend time in a place long enough to witness the frustration they bring to the locals, and knowing I sit somewhere in between a clueless tourist and a judging native, alienates and isolates me even more. Not necessarily in a bad way. Enlightenment is wonderful and although ignorance is never bliss when you can see local snarls, it is frustrating to realise that even though I’m more welcomed than a dithering tourist, where ever I go, I don’t really fit in.