A tour usually means going somewhere, and The Adirondacks are a place to visit. But there is another kind of trip, an unusual one: an adventure in the Adirondacks.
This kind of trip can be guided or unguided. It can be a hike or a canoe trip, or both. It can also include bird watching, fishing, kayaking, or whatever else interests you. An experience is anything that makes it feel like you’re not just visiting. It’s the difference between driving through the Adirondacks on a Sunday afternoon and getting out of your car and walking around to explore them, and going on vacation to spend a week with your family hiking in the wilderness.
Adventures in the Adirondacks are possible because they’re no ordinary place. They have something special to offer many people: peace and quiet, beauty, diversity of vegetation and wildlife, good weather for most of the year, and more than enough interesting places for someone who knows what to do with himself to have fun without leaving town.
It’s a bit odd to talk about doing a tour in the Adirondack mountains. You don’t see the mountains, you don’t see the lake. You just wander around in the woods.
But it is true that almost everything interesting you could possibly want to do in the Adirondacks can be done without ever actually seeing them. The mountains are invisible; they’re there, but you don’t see them.*
But you need to know what they look like, because if you don’t, then when you come across one that looks like this-
When I was a kid, my dad would take my sister and me on vacation to the Adirondacks. He’d tell us stories about what we could do there, and we’d spend our time hiking and fishing and exploring caves. We had wonderful fun.
But then I grew up and realized that many of the things he told us were wrong. It turned out that he hadn’t really been camping in the Adirondacks, he’d just used those words as some kind of “I know what you are thinking” clickbait title for a blog post. The real adventures were not those we imagined but what my dad had been doing—touring New York City on his bicycle with his French girlfriend.
Tourist traps are a problem for everyone, but they’re especially dangerous for tourists who don’t realize they’re being marketed to as tourists rather than potential customers.
The best way to get a sense of a place is to hire a tour guide. You can’t do it on your own: you need someone who knows the area, and can tell you what’s worth seeing and where.
New York City isn’t exactly a mystery, but every time I go there I always want to know more about it. New York is such a dense place that it seems like there must be something else going on than just the parts I’ve been seeing. So I ask myself what I would have done if I had been born in another time or place, and then I try to figure out how to do it myself. The key difference being that if it weren’t for me, neither would there be anything for me to see.
Tourism is a good way to make a living if you have the right skills. There are many more people who want to go away on vacation than there are places that want to be visited. And many of the places that want to be visited, aren’t very interesting either.
There are huge numbers of people with the right skills, and they are all being employed in tourism. They will almost always get better jobs than they would have gotten if they hadn’t chosen this line of work.
Tourism can also be surprisingly profitable if you buy into some of the myths tourists like to believe. For example, the idea that the beautiful scenery their tour guides show them was undisturbed by human hands. So much of what we see is actually a result of human activity, it’s hard to know where humans stop and nature takes over again.*
Tourists often believe that in some remote corner of the world, untouched by human footstep, there is an untouched wilderness; a place where neither human footstep nor human hands ever touched it. But every time you fly into a new place looking for such a place, you discover that it doesn’t exist anywhere else.
When you need to find something, the easiest thing is to ask. And when you ask, people will answer. They will tell you the things they think you should know. They are more likely to recommend a tour company than one of their neighbors. Their answers will be positive and enthusiastic and free of criticism, because that is what people are more likely to do if they are in the business of selling tours.
But at some point, you have to stop asking. It is time for you to start making decisions for yourself.
The tourist industry has a lot of rules. One of the most important is that you should never give money to an impoverished person unless you can get some reciprocal service in return. In other words, if you’re going to buy a T-shirt from someone on the street, you should buy it from somebody else instead of donating it, even if the second T-shirt is actually cheaper. It’s a kind of give and take that’s been around since ancient times.
But it turns out that there are some borderline cases where we have to bend this rule. Sometimes we have to give away stuff we think might be useful even though we can’t get anything back. For example, back in our cars when we drive past people with signs begging for change, most of us ignore them. So why do we do that?
One reason is that we feel sorry for those people. But there’s another reason: We don’t want other people to see us littering the streets with coins and bills, or failing to pay our parking tickets, or whatever else cities pressure us into doing (see article below). So most people will throw a bill or two into a cup and walk on by without stopping; it’s more socially acceptable for us to hand something to someone than not to