In Search of the Exotic
Like so many of us, Reg has been a traveller (in truth or in desire) for most of his adult life, a passion that has taken him to Europe, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, South-east Asia and China, among several other stops along the way. But not content with being a tourist and staying with the arranged and expected, Reg has always wanted to do it himself, alone if necessary, to see what others might not see: the way people live their daily lives in other cultures, how they behave, what they believe in, what their living conditions are. To this end he has not only visited many foreign places, but actually lived there, most recently for three years in China during which he taught English and travelled from one end of the country to the other, staying wherever possible with families – never multi-star hotels catering to western tourists.
But to enter into someone else’s culture and way of living is not without ethical difficulties if one is attempting to learn and to record, particularly when entranced by the exotic aspects of totally foreign settings and traditions. We may recognize that the world is neither a zoo nor a museum for our entertainment, amusement or enlightenment but, however noble our intentions in learning of other cultures, it is easy to slip into objectification of the spectacle (in our eyes and minds) we so much want to see and to enjoy.
Reg’s presentation touches on his many experiences in travelling and living around the world, but centers on his most recent travels in China, recognizing his own tendency to exoticize a way of life simply because it is so different from our own and asks the question “What do we, as tourists, do in our own Search for the Exotic?”