In light of Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel 2014’ list revealed earlier this week – and the subsequent fallout/pride/derision of my hometown, Adelaide, being on that list – I have been spurred on to making a list of my own…
An Odd Geography’s ‘Top 10 Reasons to Instantly Disregard Lists of Cities’
1. The Internet – if you’re reading this now, you have access to it, or someone – probably my mum – has handed you her print out of the page.
The internet: your gateway to EVERYTHING – the same celebrity death news, the same luge race results, the same recipes for kale, the same designs for the same felt owl brooch. The city you live in doesn’t constrain your exposure to these things.
2. Your Imagination – it breeds things like FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out): you can look at a big city and imagine people are constantly caught up by Things To Do, stumbling around, laughing on Big City Substances at night, on roads that always look like they’re being photographed in long-exposure: red and white lines streaking every which way. Your imagination also fills in the blanks of your ignorance: you can look at smaller cities and imagine they’re filled with the type of people you never associate with in your own city; a city of people stuck in time, a city of your in-laws, a city of people voting against your party.
3. Relativity – individuals have unique experiences of places. I know people who don’t like New York. I know; they’re crazy, but there you go.
Also, cringe is felt everywhere – in the UK, newspapers are indignant about Yorkshire being one of the Best Of… Places on the list. Far away from the politics of that particular cringe, we couldn’t give a shit.
4. You Don’t Live There – why would you feel the need to express your opinion about somewhere of absolutely no consequence to you? Maybe you lived there 15 years ago, but that’s not now, and you’re not committed to the place anymore. A Holocaust survivor will have bad memories of the concentration camp in Auschwitz, but the town itself wasn’t an accomplice to the events that took place there.
5. You Live There – you know the ins and outs of the place. Sure, ‘hidden treasures’ are thrilling for the locals, but unless visitors also have access to them, what’s the point? Also, you’ve probably had years in schools and workplaces to build a network of friends, who colour a place more than pop-up boutiques and vibrant laneways do.
6. Believing the Brand – ask yourself: are you really the type of person who judges something based on its brand association? Judging a city because it’s on a Best Of list, or judging purely on hearsay is like making a superficial indictment on something you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, darling.
7. Cynicism – or not enough. Who made the list? Were they impartial? Why did they make it? To what end will having this city on the list benefit the bureaucrats in charge of it? How many boxes did having the city on the list tick for the list-makers and city councils?
8. Everywhere Is Shit Sometimes – if there was a place on Earth that had 27C blue sky weather with low humidity and a light breeze every day of the year, I’d live there. But there isn’t. Also, I know people who actually like wearing coats and scarves. I know; they’re crazy, but there you go. Furthermore, imbalance in wealth occurs everywhere. In every city you’ll find a less desirable part of it to look down on.
9. Inevitability – sooner or later Kinshasa will make the list, and then YOUR city will, again…
10. Adelaide – …I was listening to music from my ’90s teenhood the other night, and it instantly took me back to the lounge room in my parents house in Adelaide, where I used to sit with my eyes closed, travelling in on myself, exploring those recesses of my young brain where my fears and aspirations battled continuously. Then I was walking down nondescript suburban streets with friends, wishing we were elsewhere, sharing jokes from the same TV shows shown all over the world. We could’ve been anywhere. Unsettled youth share frustrations, but this has more to do with the people we are than the place we inhabit.
I have reasons for leaving Adelaide, but they’re mine, and I entreat everyone to make their own decisions about where they live. If it frustrates you, try to change it. If you don’t like it, leave it. If you love it, love it. Just don’t wait for it to be validated by a list.