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Travelling irresponsibly


The publication of a new book by Bradt Travel Guides makes us ponder issues of responsibility and irresponsibility in travel. The book is called The Irresponsible Traveller. It is a great read, but we conclude that travel writers tend to go to far-flung places before behaving irresponsibly.

It was quite the fashion to travel irresponsibly in the opening years of the last century. That tendency is well reflected in the writing of the period. Aubrey Herbert’s ability to get under the skin of Albanian society — he was a great champion of Albanian independence — was mediated by his lack of regard for his own safety.

Writing to British Foreign Secretary Lord Grey from Scutari (nowadays Shkodër) in Albania in September 1913, Herbert reminded Lord Grey of the merits of travelling irresponsibly. His words echo those of legendary traveller Gertrude Bell who, describing her 1905 journey through Syria, remarked that “it is one of the privileges of the irresponsible traveller that he is not called upon to eschew the company of rogues.” Bell, the female incarnation of male colonial aspiration, went to dangerous corners of a region where no sensible traveller would venture today. All in the interests of Empire, of course.

It was not merely the prerogative of wellconnected Brits to roam irresponsibly.

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