No Robotourism

“Let’s not be robotourists,” Karimé tells me from the outset of our trip to Argentina. “The first time I went to the Dominican Republic with my sister, she had this whole list of places we were going and when we were going to be there. It was too organized.”

You know the type, the people with the guidebooks and time tables — the marathon man in Vienna, the Rick Steves people. There are guidebook chapters and newspaper features that can map out how to spend 48 hours in Lisbon, Melbourne, or Paris. Some people follow them to the letter. You will have a dulce de leche at 8:35 a.m. at Cafe Broussard. Lunch at Le Monde along the avenue for ideal people watching. Climb the clock tower in the late afternoon for a magnificent sunset over the city.

Life is already too organized. There are too many schedules. Aren’t we trying to escape our schedules?

Deep down, I applaud this rebellion.Which isn’t to say I’m opposed to advice. Guidebook itineraries and walking tours are helpful, but there’s no law that says you have to follow them. They are just suggestions, like the center line on winding mountain highways in Tennessee.

Of course, sometimes robotourism is unavoidable. You return to your hotel at quarter to eight after a long day of exploring Buenos Aires, and the manager tells you a driver will pick you up at nine for the tango show he booked for you. There’s an hour to change clothes and grab dinner, then you’ve got to jump in the car and dash to make the curtain. That doesn’t stop Karimé and me from making the driver wait. Karimé needs to change shoes. I stand outside Hotel Frossard smiling, looking apologetic while she runs upstairs. Outwardly, I may seem sympathetic for putting the driver off his schedule, but deep down, I applaud this rebellion. We will not be told what to do.

Photo: Street performer in La Boca, Buenos Aires. Photographed by Karimé Alvarado Cepeda.

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