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Why are we looking for originality on our journeys? - a philosophical approach


Again and again we are asked about it - Where is the not yet discovered dream beach that nobody knows? Where can we really get to know untouched cultures? Where do people still live unaffected by external (or especially western) influences?

Questions that are at first glance, from a general social perspective quite understandable, but where a look behind the scenes is well worth it.

What does originality really mean?

Of course, the word "originality" is a term with very strong interpretations and multifaceted subjective coloring. Surely every one of us, when he starts to think about it, will find his own definitions. If you consult an encyclopedia, you will find there synonyms such as simplicity, closeness to nature, nativeness, naturalness, primitiveness, and in the literal sense of the word "little or no further development and / or falsification". From a spiritual point of view, originality is what was in the beginning. Origin is that from which everything springs, thus arises.

In sum, originality may be something that has not evolved - is it the counterpoint to our own current life? Is originality something that in principle is largely lacking in our own lives? A deficit that we try to compensate for while traveling?

Where do we find originality?

Life consists of an incredible number of levels and facets. Therefore, there is of course no answer to such a question and certainly not the „secret tip". Surely you can discover originality here and there in everyday life, if we allow it. But if we narrow our focus to the subject of travel and to countries, landscapes and their cultures, it can certainly be said spontaneously that real originality can always be found where the influence of the outside is as minimal as possible, f.e. in countries that either are politically and economically isolated and live far away from capitalism and globalization, or are geographically isolated enough not to catch up with modern civilization. The pure originality may therefore be found only in remote areas of the Amazon or Papua New Guinea. But what happens if, as a tourist, even one of us sets foot in this originality? A few years ago, one of the last "indigenous" tribes in Indonesia had to allow for integration into modern society, as strangers had introduced diseases into their tribe that they could no longer cure with their thousands of years of natural medicine knowledge. They had to defeat themselves and accept the help of modern civilization in Western hospitals. Is the search for originality per se the beginning of the destruction of this originality? And would't we have to feel guilty if we are always looking for originality and urgently demand it as a highlight of any trip, often without thinking or even accepting fatal consequences?

Are we willing to live "originality" ourselves?

If originality is the opposite of evolution, then an original state would surely be one that would mean an absence of the amenities of our Western civilization - that is, years of continuous development: hygienic and medical achievements, the modern media, without some of us could survive neither privately nor professionally, the advantages of highly technical means of transport, which can probably carry out their task soon without the people. And, of course, also knowledge, without which it would be difficult for us to find our way in an increasingly complex world.

So if originality meant the loss of those comforts, then we certainly would not be too inclined to give up constantly and continuously in our lives, wouldn't we? Don't we also enjoy the possibility of returning to a "civilized world" when we have filled up our "original memory" when traveling? Thus, we like to remain out of the ordinary, even when traveling in terms of originality. Originality becomes an object of tourist consumption such as the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal.

Advantages of originality.

You may know this situation very well: you are traveling through the streets of a foreign city or through the "untouched" landscape of a country far away, seeing people along the wayside, living in a non-isolated corrugated iron house, barely having clothes on them wearing them every day because of lack of money and opportunities, they have little to eat, they suffer from hunger, hygienic deficiencies and consequent illnesses - but they carry a laugh of contentment on their face which in our affluent society has disappeared. A satisfaction that is independent of ownership, success and money. An inner satisfaction we long for, which we almost envy. And that, even though they have "nothing" in our eyes. Isn't it this confrontation with the nativeness that reminds us that we should finally be satisfied with what we have (usually much more than "they" have)?

But the benefit of originality is also the access to our own nature, a sense of our nature with which we lived in harmony in former times, generations of knowledge about the healing powers of nature, a life in tune with our innate biorhythm, a reflection to the essentials. All aspects that we miss in our everyday life, right?

What does life in originality mean?

Let's go into the meta-level and slip into the shoes of an originally living person. Although this is certainly incredibly difficult for us, as we have the privilege of being able to travel at all, something that the "originally" living human of another culture is unlikely to be able to afford in his lifetime. We feel that, without the convenience of hygiene, modern medicine, living on a "sufficient" level of financial resources, if you do not even know that these aspects abound in other societies? How does it feel to live in harmony with nature and climate if you have never had the experience of alienating yourself from it? Would we be willing - if only for a fictitious moment - to place us in the role of an originally living person, so that a traveler looking for originality could view this life from the outside? An admittedly very provocative mind game. But does not every human on this planet have the right to further development? To be able to access the conveniences of technology, medicine and hygiene? And who can presume the right to deny it to the "originally" living people, only to experience originality for a short moment even when traveling? Very selfish, isn’t it?

What is the future?

Many philosophers, writers, artists and scientists are concerned with the question of what the future of our society is and are also traveling to remote, primitive cultures to answer that question. David Mitchell describes in his literary masterpiece "The Cloud Atlas" a society that collapses after its technological heyday and returns to the state of the "Middle Ages", since humanity has destroyed the earth with its exploitation. Dan Brown sees "Origin" as the future in a society that merges with technology. Scientists deal with the future of the revolution around Industry 4.0 - how do we deal with increasing technology? Will we eventually have to return to "originality" or have to return in the face of the exploitation of our planet? Or will all the still primitive cultures still living in harmony with nature and nature become extinct in a few decades? And then do not we do well to seek and find the gems of originality just to save them from their own future?

So is there a secret insider tip?

We can not stop globalization any more than tourism. We can not protect cultures, countries and landscapes from the influences of Western societies, thus actually from ourselves. But we can try to see the world as it is, with all its advantages and disadvantages, a constantly changing place with people who are evolving and adapting. And every one of us has the right to it, unfortunately too often not the means.

Perhaps this is also the goal of a traveler to see the world as it is and to learn from it. Perhaps an important facet of travel is to see what real impacts the spread of Western products (= seas flooded with plastic), technologies (= "natives" hanging on the cell phone the whole day), and tourism (= cultures facing foreign impressions). And maybe we should not mourn the lost originality, but help to make our planet a better place together, responsibly, whatever that may be.


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