Detour at railroad crossing
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Detourist

Detour at railroad crossing
Detour at railroad crossing (Photo courtesy Paul Brennan via PublicDomainPictures.Net)

A detour marks a disruption in one’s journey, an unexpected reconfiguration of a planned itinerary. A detourist then is a disrupted tourist. Unlike conventional tourists, including those who look for less-traveled routes, who desire those places and experiences “off the beaten path,” the detourist disrupts the conventions, values, aesthetics, and purposes of the tourist mentality; she desires, in short, to enter a wholly different reality of human experience, awareness, and beingness.

In my own deliberate moments of detourism, I am striving to see through the tourist mirror into other landscapes.

For me, tourism exemplifies the mass conformity of values, aesthetic desires, and consumerist behaviors that are characteristic of modern society, experienced particularly in and through the requirements of market capitalism. In contrast, detourism suggests resistance to and even self-conscious denial of the social, economic, and cultural forces that define the worlds we live in. Other realities are possible, the detourist insists.

This insistence of course has its own long tradition within modernity. The modern has always had its anti-modern, a bit of postmodern irony that the detourist mentality cannot avoid. It has been a well-worn path of artists, rebels, and innovators who have, despite their nonconformist intentions, propelled modernity ever onward. But does complicity (often unintentional) in what it resists make the refusal of conformity an unworthy aspiration? Perhaps. But it sure beats being a tourist.

On the other hand, maybe there exists something more than this vastly overdetermined modern society of consumers and capitalists. Maybe there are other landscapes not yet glimpsed, other realities not yet imagined. That possibility compels the detourist toward all the wrong turns, disputing the well-rehearsed conclusions of tour guides, happily avoiding the gift shops, choosing instead to speed headlong toward the unknown and perhaps unknowable. “Road Closed” signs and “Wrong Way” warnings stand as invitations; every detour becomes a felicitous opportunity to set down the tourist mirror and open my eyes, free my mind, and unleash a different sort of truth. ♨

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