Oops! Am I a Colonialist too?
U.S. millennial travel is the new appropriation. And their goodwill, a cloak for colonialism. Social media breeds an odd combination of narcissism and secret coveting. And the more I leave the US and find fellow expats, the more I stumble upon awkward conversations like the one my partner and I shared with two young women at a tourist hotspot in Chefchouen, Morocco.
The conversation started off somewhat benign.
First, you have the basic introductions- where ya from, what ya do, etc. But instead of a normal back and forth, you could get the following:
Power Girl Duo: Where do you work?
Me: [Drop a 10 second line about where I’ll be and what I’m doing] and y’all?
Totally Tubular Techie (TTT): I took a sabbatical to work on this Moroccan start-up in the suburbs of Casablanca.
[Silent Me: You mean you quit your job cuz you ain’t a McK consultant or a professor so… You couldn’t keep up with the Bay and are trying to figure things out. True.]
Woke Undergrad Traveler (WUT): [Drop scrappy start-up too many times to withhold my winces.]
Me: So what’s the name?
WUT: [Lots of words but effectively says nothing]
Me: What does the start-up do?
WUT: Well, it was started by an ex-Peace Corp guy who wanted to cut out the middleman for artisan weavers in Morocco. You know, like, direct to consumer.
[Silent Me: So… you are the new middleman right? And ya’ll don’t have anything other than a dilettante wealthy audience who likes to prey on the world right? Cool.]
Me: Ok new topic: what’s your favorite place to travel in the world?
Girl Duo: Like Morocco? Rabat. My Fulbright friend took me to the best hole-in-the-wall in Rabat- best tagine in my  life!
[Silent Me: So you gonna covet local hangouts from Fulbright (and why do you feel the need to drop Fulbright?) friends in Rabat but won’t drop the name of the spot. Selfish.]
Me: Nah girl, the world.
TTT: Anywhere in the middle east. Like Egypt, pre-all the craziness.
[Silent Me: “All the craziness”… I see.]
Me: And what about you [woke undergrad traveler]?
WUT: Well, I grew up with East Asia in my bones because my dad did a lot of research on alternative medicine in China and Japan so I always feel that explosion in my body, ya know?
[Silent Me: No, not really.]
WUT: But if I had to pick, I’d go with Israel. I mean, regardless of your political leanings, you know with the whole Palestine situation, it’s a beautiful place to visit. I just love love it. Some of my family was reform and now they are orthodox kickin’ it in Israel. And its like DO YOU!
So many things to parse- the non-sequitor intro, the Palestine “situation” ’splained to a Muslim and the forced trendiness of hyper-conversions. Too much for me to process. But enough to show me the self-absorbed, catch phrase drunk set of traveling colonialists.
Admittedly, I get in my Richie Homie Quan feelings when I post pictures on Instagram or rant on a woke issue on Facebook. I feel like a walking and talking new age colonialist. And it gives me the creeps. Not sure what to do- other than to avoid U.S. expats perhaps.
So am I a colonialist? Are you?