Local writer publishes travel memoir, ‘Bad Tourist’
Local writer Suzanne Roberts has published her collection of travel essays she wrote as she explored four continents and 15 countries on a search for the love of her life and herself.
Her book, “Bad Tourist: Misadventures in Love and Travel” highlights her eye-opening experiences, her adventures showing what she learned to avoid while traveling and how to travel in a more meaningful way.
Not being unfamiliar to living in a tourism driven city, Roberts learned about herself and also how she can be a better, more respectful tourist.
The book is set to be released in October by University of Nebraska Press.
The book recounts Robert’s journey trying to be a good tourist, but her goal is often questioned during her travels when she finds that cultural barriers and differences make it unknowingly difficult. She looks at the experience through a humorous lens while making important points about how she is learning to travel respectfully.
“I think that most of us when we travel, we try to not be a bad tourist but I think that when we are outside of our lives, our own cultures and our own comfort zones, we ultimately fail,” Roberts said.
Cultural etiquettes like eating with your hands in India is a small example of how immersing yourself in another culture can be challenging and unfamiliar. Roberts sees how many people love to travel but don’t put in the effort to understand the cultural differences.
She says that she sees this common theme being played out in Tahoe as well regarding garbage, illegal fires, crowding and not social distancing during a pandemic.
“It comes down to a sense of entitlement,” she said. “Often in this country, many people get so few weeks of vacation. We’ve worked hard and feel entitled to a certain kind of experience but what we don’t realize is that people who live in the places that we go, don’t get to leave or they don’t get a vacation at all.”
Roberts says that this mentality not only makes us bad tourists but also makes people bad locals in some respects as well. She says we should be a good model for tourists.
“When we live closer to wild animals and a place we are trying to preserve, we understand the ethics of living in a wilderness,” she said. “I think people come and they just don’t understand. They don’t get that you shouldn’t feed bears or have a bonfire in your backyard. We as locals know the devastating effects of those actions.”
She says that she realized it with herself too, but some people feel like that should be able to do what they want because they have spent time and money to do so.
“As locals we could do better as well to model this,” she said.
The book has surprises, twists and brings up a sense of relatability to living in a place like Tahoe.
“If I tell my own story it might shed some light on some instances that other people have had,” she said.
This book doesn’t just apply to tourism but it shares how traveling can bring out different parts of ourselves. Roberts says that when we travel, we experience ‘freer’ versions of ourselves that might be more brave than we usually are at home which her experiences in the book exemplify.
Roberts has been working on this book since 2011. Her first intentions were not to write a book on being a bad tourist, but more of a travel memoir.
The book started as essays detailing her travels with lessons and experiences she had, some of which date back to 2002. After her travels, she would sort certain pieces of her writing where she felt she wasn’t necessarily a good tourist. She would put these pieces in a file that she labeled ‘Bad Tourist.’ After years, she realized that this file had over 100,000 words. She organized the files to be a sort of “anti-guidebook” along with her memoirs of festivals, food, sleeping, etc.
One of the many lessons she learned is that staying longer in a place and making an effort to learn the language are important components of traveling.
“This creates opportunities to communicate with people who live there in ways that aren’t just grounded in consumerism,” Roberts said.
She recommends going places as a guest, not a tourist or even a traveler and to figure out a way to become a small part of the culture.
Her experience in traveling also helped her overcome societal pressures while helping her love herself and accept the mistakes she made. The book also follows as she works on becoming the best version of herself through confidence, independence, acceptance and happiness that she learned on her travels.
The book is available at most local bookstores around the basin including Cuppa Tahoe, Gaia-Licious Global Gifts, Word after Word, Sundance Bookstore and more.
Roberts’ other books include the 2012 National Outdoor Book Award-winning Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail and four collections of poetry. Named “The Next Great Travel Writer” by National Geographic’s Traveler magazine, Roberts’ work has appeared in many anthologies and journals, including Best Women’s Travel Writing, The New York Times, CNN, Creative Nonfiction, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She teaches for the low residency MFA in Creative Writing at Sierra Nevada University and lives in South Lake Tahoe.
For more information, visit the author’s website: http://www.suzanneroberts.net.
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