As a blogger, I am starting to read other people’s blogs with some interest, especially if they are about travel, and particularly if they relate to places I have been to, or want to go to. Being part of a global community, even if it is a virtual one, makes the travel experience all the more enjoyable, doesn’t it?
The thing about blog posts is, the writer has total freedom to say what they like about a place, whether or not it is an accurate representation of the tourist experience generally, and whether or not there is any real supporting evidence for what the blogger is saying. How can one refute a blogger’s personal experience? There are countless instances of people being in the same place at around the same time, reporting quite differently on the situation. Diversity makes the world go around, we can all learn from each other.
So, while I’m still puppy-dog-tail-wagging excited about my recent trip to Portugal, and have a thousand wonderful things that I want to write about, this afternoon I took a break from my own work to read a blog post about a couple’s recent month-long stay in Lisbon, expecting at the very least to find a level of connectedness and familiarity. However, the reading experience became less about bonding with the author and more about reactions like ‘That can’t be right!’ and ‘Are you serious?’. I found myself questioning how my experiences could be so different to those of another recent traveller.
I rarely look at comments on a blog post, but I was compelled to read these. From the number of responses this post received (saying anything controversial, whether fact or fiction, is a sure way to go viral), the writer sure aroused some emotions from fellow tourists and locals alike.
Amid the uproar of protestations, bbqboy stubbornly held ground. When someone agreed with him, he was quick to display his ‘See, I am right’ badge. To the detractors, he was defamatory – they simply didn’t know what they were talking about.
Bbqboy’s main theme was that he and his travelling partner had an awful time in Lisbon; this was due to a number of factors: a noisy Airbnb, nowhere to buy groceries (the local minimarts were full of stuff only Portuguese people would like, imagine!), drug peddlers and, for crying out loud, in August (the European holiday month) the place was crawling with foreigners! He lamented that he hardly heard a word of Portuguese, but there were French people in abundance. Bloody tourists! Throughout the diatribe, he failed to see the irony in this.
His main defence for choosing Lisbon as his destination for a month-long holiday in August was that ‘no one told me it would be like this.’ It doesn’t take the intelligence of Einstein to work out that Lisbon would be a hot spot at this time of year. Those responding agreed, providing links a-plenty pointing to the fact that August was the peak of the tourist season (which can really be said about the whole of Europe, so this is hardly news).
When challenged on other equally dubious points, his key argument against objectors was that ‘we stayed for a month, so we know better than all of you other people who only stay for a few days’.
Other than wanting to sound more knowledgeable than other tourists and the locals, even those who actually agreed with him on some points, curiously, I’m really not sure what his agenda was, and I am truly sorry that he did not find Lisbon as fascinating as I did. Given that he and his partner (who carries the burden of the curious name of ‘Spanky’) were in town for all that time, I am surprised that he was not able to find a ‘proper’ supermarket close by (I saw several of these, and visited a couple, within a kilometre of where they were staying in the Bairro Alto area). I’m sorry that they felt harassed by drug peddlers, but we had no experience of this and I take offence on behalf of the Portuguese government and social services who have worked so hard to effectively stamp out this problem, making Lisbon one of the safest European cities to live in and visit. He did at one stage add the adjective ‘Jamaican’ in front of ‘drug sellers’, thereby saving himself from the complete wave of Portuguese indignation.
Honestly, given that they were there for a whole month I find the inaccuracy of much of his reporting astounding to say the least (maybe he should have got out of that terrible apartment a bit more), and the fact that he wouldn’t thoroughly check an Airbnb before paying for a month’s accommodation (as most of us do) is equally astounding.
I don’t really want to dwell on this character or his post much longer. And rather than add my voice to the objectors, I decided to write my own post on my own blog instead which you can read if you want my perspective. In any case, others already said what needed to be said to him. One commenter sums it up nicely (I have corrected the spelling, other than that it is transposed word for word):
I’m Portuguese and I’m amused by all your comments. As a matter of fact, there is a little detail you might have forgotten in your “report”: Portugal is a country with people inside; real people who, for almost 900 years, have shaped their towns and cities according to their particular needs, their own sense of aesthetics and their love for them. Lisbon (or any other place in my country) was not built and do not exist to satisfy (or not) your expectations. Our monuments and our Miradouros (lookouts) were not built for you, or any other thirsty tourists, to sit there and complain about the amount of other tourists who decided, just like you, to visit Portugal. The irony and the ridicule of your complaints is that YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM you so strongly point out.
As a world traveller myself (I feel I have the right to call myself that, having at this stage visited close to 50 countries), many for weeks at a time, I am intrigued by the notion that a tourist would complain about the blight on a city created by other travellers, and about the people who lease out their properties to said tourists in order to secure an income. Bbqboy has obviously not heard the term caveat emptor.
Reading this blog has been an interesting experience for me; it does raise the issue of responsible blogging – I wonder if there are community behaviours around this? If there are, I think bbqboy has broken most of them.
I hope you don’t really want to read his long-winded, flawed and blustering post (the pics are nice at least), but if you must, here is the link. Bbqboy’s ego will thank you for reading.
Now, for me, it’s on to finishing some posts that present Lisbon as the shining star it is.