Posted by: Bob Fisher | May 20, 2009

Cancun and Quintana Roo: Always a Work in Progress

Familiarity breeds insouciance

I have never liked the expression “familiarity breeds contempt,” probably because I never really understood the etymological and root meaning of the word contempt. I can understand why neglect can lead to contempt; and as one source tells me the “familiarity breeds contempt” expression can also mean, “The better we know people, the more likely we are to find fault with them.”

Or as Benjamin Franklin said, “Fish and visitors smell in three days.”

And yet, one psychological study I read recently suggests quite the opposite; that in fact:

“Given how irritating other people sometimes are, it’s surprising how many of us are eternal optimists about forming new relationships. Indeed people seem primed to like others: the ‘mere exposure effect’ is a robust social psychological finding demonstrating that just being exposed to someone causes us to like them more.”

Well I prefer to put my money on optimism and on using initial “familiarity” as the point of departure for finding out more about a travel destination, because I am convinced that more often than not, we only have time to skim the surface.

And yet, if we had the time, resources, and willingness to go deeper into the subject matter (i.e. the destination), we would probably learn a lot more and understand more about the very complex persona of any travel destination.

And while I am on my soapbox, I mustn’t forget to mention “the fixed notion.”

As I learned recently from Gregory Berns, author of the fascinating and very brain scientific book Iconoclast: A neuroscientist reveals how to think differently, the human brain is (neurologically-speaking) a lazy brain; it likes to take shortcuts. In part, this is because of all the information and sensory stimulation that bombards it. In brief, it can actually make erroneous judgments, jump to conclusions, indulge in over-generalizations and … here’s the core message folks … apply unwarranted fixed notions to people, places, and other stuff.

And we do this with destinations, even if we have not visited them… or not re-visited them recently.

“Why would I want to go to India with all those people, all that poverty, and all that hot spicy food?” Well, I’ve been to India … one of my all-time favourite destinations … so what can I say other than you may be indulging in a fixed notion?

What I learned in Cancun and Quintana Roo

Well, I learned once again (my brain gets lazy too you know) not to apply fixed notions to a destination. I learned that there is always more than meets the eye … and all the senses for that matter, including the conceptual sense.

I learned once again to be wary of dumbed down media coverage of travel destinations and hysterical “if it bleeds it leads” media coverage.

I learned that there is no single Cancun; that it is a multidimensional destination

And that is why Travelosophy is pleased to present the following stories from Cancun and Quintana Roo:

The Lessons of Cancun

The Lessons of the Maya

Kanché and Puerta Verde: A Role Model for Alternative, Grassroots, and Indigenous Travel

The Spatial Sense and Sensibility of Mexican Architect Ricardo Legorreta



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