Dragging the Line: Notre Nouvelle Vague

         The backpackers of yesterday have given way to a sea of wheel-enabled dinosaurs crossing the landscape - the station is a rolling thunder of luggage, the assumed posture is an arm behind and a mobile-wielding arm afore. There is no need for questions - everyone's self-assured, the google has it all in hand. There is little "free" among this traveling lot - they've got their Ubers and AirBNB's lined up, maps to guide them, a Yelp or 4Square of available restaurants, and naturally a best-rated list of sites & things to do. Weather? all plotted out, or close enough to model the needed fashion on. No more dealing with black currency exchange in alleys with the occasional scam and cry of "police! police!" - it's line up at the ubiquitous exchange office or pull cash out of the ATM or simply bonk-and-pay. Even visas, that once prickly subject usually prompting a stream of half-truths and uncertainties is now regularized - people know where they're going, they mostly know when they'll return.
         The world is collapsing in an explosion of certainty, definition, things known. How can there be "exploration" when it's all divvied up in prior opinions, rankings, paths trod and retrod ad nauseum? "Appetite for Consumption" would be the new Guns & Roses anthem - hipster cafés, restaurants for nibbles, drinks at 9, followed by a few hours of earnest talking. Yes, people are really conversing, about what it's hard to say, but there's some kind of cross-pollenization going on that resembles a story without a story. Gone are the shady just-getting-laids drive-by drunken debauches - this is earnest business, waking up with lessons learned, contacts made, a kind of LinkedIn for this gen's backpackers or freewheelers as we might say - no one carries anything on their backs, once settled in everyone feels like a local except for the constant checking of Google maps to prime whereabouts or next destination. No baggage, no distinguishing characteristics, no worries - once one of the prize possessions of any self-respecting traveller.
         If you hear people talk about migrants with alarm, one of the reasons is that they're messy, chaotic, outside our well-developed tourist flows. Someone published a "Map of Every City in Europe", and it's so accurate it's scary - there's never been an abattoir designed with better flow to get its occupants from source to destination - a slaughterhouse of tourist delights, not that "delight" is very indicative of the types of rudimentary mundane activities in store. When Hemingway wrote "Movable Feast" nearly a century ago, he dreamed more of steamer trunks and long stays and long aimless walks by yes, each town's riverbanks along with time to, well, dream. In our belated version, we've saved so much time, organized so well, that we've eliminated time and reflection and happenstance and chance near completely, replaced by trails - a GPS-marked trace of food and
    movement and abodes and encounters, tied to snaps of meals had (w/o humans hamming up the obligatory culinary photos) and new acquaintances selfied - no mess left behind as the service charge pays for the cleaning before next set of vagabonds move in. Even the slight uncertainty of pensions and hostels gives way to the choreographed inward-focused homes-away-from-homes, weekends abroad interactionless among throngs. The Japanese can relax now that they're no longer the only ones who photo-document every facade and streetlamp of their destinations, petabytes and petabytes of shared visual record, our banal Akashic record tagging the lanes of our existence in intricate detail.

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