It’s beautiful here. Natural beauty. Old town main street beauty. And a lot of new shops with buyers and designers with strongly aesthetic eyes. Everything catches my eye. Taking tons of pictures gives such pleasure. I walk down the main street — Warren St., window shopping, and thinking, yes, if I had the money and a way to get it home, I would buy this and this and this and this and that.
Anna took this shot of me in an alleyway in Hudson. The natural light was perfect. We had a lot of fun taking pictures of each other and enjoying the light and place.
My daughter and I are here for a much needed few days of R&R. We chose Hudson because it’s only a two hour train ride from NYC, because my daughter has been here a couple of times before and liked it, and because she has a friend who lives here.
Also because, while not being entirely country, Hudson is decidedly NOT city. No bone-rattling, screeching, nervous system-jolting long subway rides. No weaving through throngs of New Yorkers, staying hyper-alert to avert collision while changing subway trains or on the streets. Here in Hudson, the walks are easy. The longest one — a half hour hike with bags — was from the train station to the hotel.
A selfie we took at the charming cafe with the unhappy barista.
Our first morning here we walked into a charming little cafe, funky and artistic. We were looking for oatmeal for breakfast. They had none, so my daughter got her coffee, I, my tea. The young woman barista was practically dripping disdain. As we sat sipping, we overheard her cheery friendliness to the locals. I felt hurt and angry.
A few of my favorite shots of Anna in Hudson.
As the day wore on and we met up and chatted with various people who live here, the issue became more clear. Hudson is being changed, and not exactly for its residents’ benefit. Apparently Hudson is an ideal location and place for people who want to get away from the City. Away, but not far. Right on the train line. Properties have been bought, renovated, new shops and restaurants opened to serve… who? Not the people of Hudson. Instead, to serve the likes of me, my daughter, other visitors. Rents are sky-rocketing. A place called Olde Hudson Market sells only the very best, most selected products. I was impressed with the items they carry and how they were displayed. Obviously hand-selected by someone with the best taste. And… way more expensive than Whole Foods. You’d think we were in Hawaii, and that everything had to be imported across an ocean.
In France I also experienced the effect of tourism on small towns. Dinan in Brittany, Veules-les-Rose in Normandy, and Uzes in the South of France were in the process of becoming facsimiles of the real towns and villages they originally were to serve the needs of tourists. I noticed too how it was the tourists wearing the traditionally French striped clothes, while the French were dressed in solid colors. A small sign of things getting mixed up.
As individuals and as groups we impact each other. Even when we don’t know it. Even when we have no intention to do so. Even when the people of a country don’t wish it, their governments can severely impact other peoples. (I’m NOT going to go into the issue of refugees here, though there are parallels worth considering; that will be another exploration.)
My favorite shop in Hudson was “Face Stockholm”. These photos left to right: Vintage mannequin heads and stuff. Face Stockholm’s use of antique & large framed mirrors causes the light to bounce everywhere and on the beautiful antique display cases. A small sign up against the sky and a church steeple. The shop is owned by a couple from Sweden who live part time in Hudson. The prices… are high. The only thing we bought — besides food — in Hudson were a few “Resist” buttons I bought at the Climate March there today!
As tourists, we impact the locals’ lives, developing their economies in certain ways, but maybe not the ways they would wish for. Locals might find a way to benefit from the tourist dollars, or they might lose their homes as the rents soar. Every person I talked with in Hudson talked about how unaffordable Hudson has become and how every weekend the town is invaded by hoards of outsiders.
Maybe tourist-impacted towns is the end result of so many humans having enough extra income that we are able to travel more often than in the past. Most people love adventures, travel, meeting new people, learning about other cultures. But when there are so many of us, the impact becomes very intense, benefitting some, harming others.
How often do we only experience our own pain? The local might get othered right out of their home. Are we aware of that? The tourist gets othered in a different way, gets treated with disrespect (as the barista did with me). We so often lay blame rather than try to understand the various impacts of our social, economic, and political interactions with one another. While I say this, I am also aware that I am making an assumption that the barista treated me the way she did because of my being a tourist. It’s possible there was another reason — perhaps I reminded her of someone she dislikes or she was having a bad moment, or…? I really didn’t know, didn’t ask, believed my assumption and created a whole story line and emotional mini-drama for myself as a result. How often do most of us make assumptions? Like maybe ALL the time?
In NYC, a vast variety — ages, gender identities, ethnicities, languages, cultures, religions, etc — of our species gathers in the millions everyday. Most of those millions live in NYC. People outside NYC will lump all New Yorkers together as if they were all the same, loud, aggressive, etc. But that is obviously an over-simplification. It is also true that New York City is a huge draw for tourists. From talking with friends and family who live in NYC, I get the impression that New Yorkers really don’t like tourists. Because… I don’t know. They stop and look at things. They take photos. They talk too loud or too soft. Of course my family and friends didn’t include me in the tourist category because I am also family and friend. But I also stop to look at things. I take tons of pictures. I often look lost and dazed. In NYC, I am totally a tourist.
Personally I just wish we could be more curious about the other, and kinder — as individuals and countries. As a species. Less blaming. Less othering. More aware of our assumptions. More supportive of our artists and small towns. More creative in our solutions.