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Losing dignity through tourism

I have two Irish roommates: Sean and Mark. I was supposed to have a French roommate too, but he never showed. But that’s beside the point.

When I told Sean that I was going to visit Blarney Castle to visit the Blarney Stone, he laughed a little, telling me that he’d never done so himself. This is strange considering Blarney is a half hour away, and that’s by bus.

It’s like that episode of Futurama where Fry wants to visit all of the amazing things in the future that he couldn’t do in the past because, you know, it was the future. He then goes to the edge of the universe and rides a dinosaur. The funny thing is, the other characters in the show say that they never do these things, since they live in said futuristic world.

That’s what it’s like studying abroad.

My roommates have never kissed the Blarney Stone, gone to the Fota Wildlife Reserve or been in the Cork City Gaol. That’s for jackass yank tourists. It’s just like how I’ve never been to Plymouth Rock, bought a Cape Cod sweatshirt or walked the Freedom Trail in Boston. That’s for jackass tourists.

Because I thoroughly enjoy making up terms, I’m going to dub this the Jackass Tourist Principle (JTP). I was originally going to call this the Domestic Proximity Effect because of the idea that most landmarks are so close, residents of the area just tell themselves “oh, I’ll just go eventually.” I do this every time I say I want to go to the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.

There’s a difference, though. The Basketball Hall of Fame is awesome (if you like basketball). But, Plymouth Rock? No. That place sucks. I’ve never been there and have no intention of going there. The only people that go there are – wait for it – jackass tourists.

It’s not like when people from the area say they’ve never been to New York, Philadelphia or even Montreal. They’re all a reasonable distance. Heck, Montreal’s an awesome summer break idea for people who are under 21 and want to drink. The problem is that there’s no real rush to go there since they’re close enough that you believe you’ll get there eventually.

Unfortunately for me, Blarney Castle is the Plymouth Rock of Ireland. No self-respecting Irish young adult wants to go there. It’s the place that parents drag their kids to have them dangle over a hole in a castle wall a couple hundred feet off the ground to kiss what Tripadvisor.com called “the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.”

Me? I’m a jackass yank tourist that runs around taking pictures of the three C’s – castles, cliffs and cathedrals – everywhere I go. I do the sort of things that I wouldn’t be caught dead doing back in the States. There’s a reason my last complete photo album before I went abroad is from high school.

In Ireland? I have no dignity. Everything is photo worthy: every cool building, every funny piece of graffiti and every picture of a penis on a wall somewhere. But it’s alright as long as I’m saying I’m performing a journalistic duty, even if the photos just end up on Facebook and my mom and aunt “like” them.

There’s nothing that screams “I’m a jackass tourist” as much as the camera. A flash is essentially a lighthouse beacon that sends the tourist signal to everyone in a 20 foot – excuse me, like a six meter – radius.

And as cool as it seems to take that quintessential picture of someone holding a pint glass in a pub, it’s a horrible idea. That is, unless, you actually want to talk to Seamus, the inebriated bus driver that will talk to you in an unintelligible mumble for 25 minutes about nothing else other than you being from America and the one person he knows that went there a decade ago.

Yes, this happened, and my friends all made fun of me because of how ridiculous I’ve gotten with my camera, And I deserved every minute of it. But who cares? It’s not like in America where tourists are looked upon with a certain scorn. It’s just some middle-aged guy at a pub saying, “Oh, a flash. Those kids are obviously Americans, I’m going to go talk to them.”

Plus, I’m out of here in three months, and all I’ll have left are my photo albums on Facebook and the shot glasses I’ve been collecting. I’m definitely not leaving here with my dignity intact at this rate.

Nick O’Malley is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at nomalley@student.umass.edu.

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