London, before and now.

London, before and now.
London Bridge
London Bridge, October 2018

I haven’t been in London since 1993. And it has changed just like everywhere else. Seems more claustrophobic then I remember.  The skyline is a chessboard of old and new buildings.  A host more glass and steel structures that I like and not.

Maybe those old memories are now regulated to the depths of my subconscious.  Transformed into veiled illusions.  Snippets to be recalled for comparisons.

Last month, September marked module two in our study abroad program.  I facilitated the learning of our introduction to tourism class.  There we learned the breadth and depth of tourism, some of the most important concepts and theories.  Stressing how important it is that we in the industry craft a memorable experience.

Only a few memories stand out from my first visit to London.  A nice chap that did our

The White Tower
The White Tower

tour of the Tower.  He wasn’t one of the Beef Eaters, but a tour guide with a black bowler and black coat.  That is all I remember, except the crows and some of the tower itself.  I know I saw the crown jewels, but can’t recall individual pieces. Sparkle, nothing more.

Returning this past fall, it is like a bright shiny penny.  All new and glistening, beckoning to be claimed.  I set out for traitor’s gate, then the medieval apartments, and finally the White Tower to see the armor and examples of weaponry.  All for research and references for my writing.  And it struck me how tourist have changed.  How behavior has changed.

Everyone jockeying for that perfect position for a selfie.  Navigating through the apartments with several tour groups, wall to wall people.  I don’t remember it being this crowded last time.  Definitely not the technology.  Back then it was analog, or SLRs, no cell phones or DLSR.

This time it was about movement.  Moving quickly through the landscape, gain as much information as possible before moving on to the next.  I was caught up when I wanted to spend hours.  Hours to examine and study, both cultural assets and the people who populated the attraction.  But I couldn’t.  I couldn’t enjoy the Tower as I wanted, caught up in the flurry.  Move, move, move and move again.

Tourism has changed in the last twenty-five years.

Inside the Medieval Apartments in the Tower
Inside the Medieval Apartments in the Tower

Do tourist really see what they are looking at?  Do they know their history or the meaning behind the attraction?  Do they take the time in the place to understand and talk to the guides?  Do they appreciate what they are viewing?  How important the structure is to our cultural heritage, our past, our present and our future?  Or has these attractions come to mean something else?

That is what I cover in module 3–tourism, culture and place.  Tourism’s effect/affect on destination, the host-guest relationship and their impact on place.  Cultural tourism is one of the reasons people travel to places.  It pulls and tugs at you to make a choice, and move.  It may be the only reason.  For instance, ancestral tourism.  The want and need to find those places associated with our ancestors, our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents.  Answers the age-old question–Where do we come from?  Who are we?  What were they like?

Concepts discussed include authenticity, culture, identity, place, place attachment, place dependency, sense of self, sense of belonging, etc.  A lot to cover in just three and half weeks.  I traveled to London for two reasons, well three.  I wanted to see the city again and what it looked like now.  I wanted to visit key heritage sites for my writing research, and finally, I wanted to see the places associated with my genealogy research.  The Tower is just one because I have may or may not have a link back to William the Conqueror (apparently my 27th Great Grandfather).

So, London holds this place of interest for me now.  Or maybe it is the type of place.  Not just the destination.  Maybe my choices, my needs and wants have shifted to something more.  It happens throughout our lifetime.  I see London in a different light.  Every trip will be different because of the variety of choices.  But the mainstay for me at least is the history in one form or another.  The cultural heritage of the place.

 

Change is a part of life…

Change is a part of life…
Flags over Edinburgh Castle
Flags over Edinburgh Castle during the Military Tattoo

It’s been nine long years since I was last in Scotland. Eleven years since I’ve lived here. Time continues and I grow older. I have always known that age is a great leveler in life, changes the playing field, and the participants. Life changes you, changes your point of view on the world and the type of perspective in which you wish to view it.

I can mark the change.  I can’t always articulate the moments, the passages of time, but I am more aware of them now.  I have some understanding.  I experience grief and uncertainty.  The whispers are different.  The voices have changed, and the language even more complex.

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Contemplation

Time affects us all and change is hard to accept, even fathom.  Scotland has changed.  I have changed.  The dynamic nature of life is in constant flux just as in tourism.  Our reasons, our motivations shift and morph with the progression of time.  Innately, the passion I once held for this place has transformed, no tempered.  It is not as mystical as it was nineteen years ago.

So, what does this mean?  What sense of this landscape do I now possess?  What sense of belonging?

The world outside my window has changed.
The world outside my window has changed.

I was an explorer twenty-five years ago to this place, this Scotland. Prior to stepping on its shores, I knew it only from literature, film and TV shows. It held a mystique.  My passion was shrouded in truths and half-truths.  I had a child-like curiosity and consumption.

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Time passes for us all

Seven years of planning, of working hard, and dreaming, my reality changed.  I returned and had the privilege of living in Scotland for seven years.  During that tenure, the world changed drastically.  It continues to change drastically for us all.  Relationships were altered.

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Pondering life on Isle of Lewis

Sometimes, I wonder what I am trying to grasp when I try to piece together the visceral and cerebral.  To understand about this change within my heart and soul.  Do I belong here?  Can I identify with this landscape, this place?  Where on the barometer of life has my sense of self migrated?  Innately, the fields of home have a stronger pull for me, than lands farther away.  I haven’t been the only one that has changed, others have too.  I am pushed to consider others now more than myself.  I am sometimes in limbo, overwhelmed with that responsibility.  Those promises inherent with our relationships have a louder call.  I have reached another milestone, another moment of truth that can’t be ignored.  More of the complex layers have been uncovered, exposed, and choices must consider a new reality.

I never did like change.  Sometimes, it has a hidden, nasty smell.  Something you want to ignore and leave alone.  Let the world go past, without acknowledgement.  Brutal honesty, we all have those moments.  Scotland was that wonderment that I could call my own.  That luxury I could escape to and find myself, find that grounding of strength that seems elusive during questionable moments.  Scotland always made me happy.  Scotland has changed.  It is different.  I’m different.  That is good.

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New boots, new journey

Good in that I can search. The journey is about moving and embracing change, understanding fear, and looking. It’s okay to look, to search out, and find. I may not find exactly what I am looking for or the answers at this moment. Life and travel, tourism is all about experiences.  It is a circle of experiences, just like life.  And change is a part of that circle, and finding yourself during each of those moments.  Another layer of who you are.

New boots, new journey.  More me.

Tourism is a journey

Tourism is a journey
White House
The White House, Washington DC

It seems I’ve come full circle several times in my life.  Heck, life is a journey, and it is not about sitting back and waiting for things to happen.  It is about the time that we have on this earth, and using it properly.  Tourism symbolizes that philosophy.  We can use our time to explore the world, to gain knowledge and information, to meet and to experience all sorts of extraordinary things.

YALI Friends
YALI Friends

This summer I returned to DC after a twenty (20) {WOW} year absence.  The place has grown, and changed.  I used to live there.  There is still this eclectic vibe about the place, something that draws you there, and want to stay awhile.  I wish I had, had more time to explore and see the old haunts, especially in Alexandria, VA.  I just wonder if the old Scottish tobacconist is still in Old Towne.

Why do we travel?  Why are some places more appealing to others?  I’ve posted this before, but let me shift gears.  My reason ‘why’ this year was to accompany the Mandela Washington Fellows that had attended the YALI exchange at UW-Stout.  These are a fantastic group of people, and I made a lot of lifelong friends.  As part of this summer program of young entrepreneurs, I had the opportunity to accompany them to Washington for a Presidential Summit.  Dad was having some health issues, and I really wanted to spend time with him before returning for the fall semester.  I know how hot and muggy DC can be especially in August, and I have never done well with the heat.  And I wasn’t sure I could afford the trip, unless the University graciously paid for it.  Luckily, I was able to go, though to be honest, I really wanted to be home in Pennsylvania.

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Mandela Washington Fellows at UW-Stout, 2015

I enjoyed my time, and I am glad I got to spend that last week with my new friends. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world, showing a city I love. I will admit, I even got to meet President Obama, and shake his hand. (No big deal for me, I’ve met other dignitaries and celebrities working in this industry, and they are just like the rest of us, people too.)

So bringing this back to tourism…

There are many reasons for travel, tourism.  Definitions encompass a host of variables, centered around particular motivations.  For me this summer, one, was business, two, economic, and three, low push, pull factors, and time.

Understanding the different definitions also helps or hints at other constructs, and concepts of tourism.

I wanted to go to DC, and be with friends sure.  I really wanted to see the city as I wanted to see the city, see the history, the heritage, and do something fun.

I wanted to meet up with old friends, and make new ones.

I wanted to escape, and go someplace that I have a far greater place attachment to ~ Pennsylvania, and recuperate, rejuvenate, and relax.

My time is my own, and wanted to be able to use it wisely.  Two weeks with parents wasn’t enough in my book.

Ford's Theatre
Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC

But it isn’t always about what you do, but about the journey that you take. The footsteps that take you through life, and the experiences you undertake.

Now the question is, how do these impressions change over time…Yes, I still like Washington, DC…but at my age (another variable to define tourism), I want it on my terms..