When we say “Jeep” in the developing world, to be clear, we mean ”Jeep-like vehicle.” This can vary from high-end luxury passenger Jeep, to stripped-down ex-military vehicle, to active-duty military vehicle, to what was probably once a consumer vehicle, modified beyond all recognition until it looks like something from “Mad Max.”
The ‘Jeep’ we rode back to Pokhara in most clearly resembled the last type in that list. Every bit of paneling had been torn out, and benches had been installed in the trunk area. This converted a five-person vehicle to a ten-person vehicle. Which was good, because we were ten. No one, from the Nepali to the foreigners, was trying to pay for two Jeeps. Even split ten ways, this was a luxury.
But, sometimes, after a long struggle, you need a luxury.
As we waited around to load the vehicle, I checked my ziplock bag full of money. Even with having to pay for the Jeep, I found that I had more left than I expected. I’d left with roughly 35,000 rupees ($350), and I still had 10,000 or so left ($100). Not a bad price for a guided 10-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp. I’d still need to tip Anker, but still. It seemed quite economical, looking back on it.
There at the end of the trek, thinking back to home, those silly ads I’d seen from western tour operators seemed so exorbitantly overpriced. Ignorance tax.
They type of thing I surely paid, often, in other areas of my life.
But after this trip — this whole, long, sad, absurdly exhausting trip — I knew I would never again pay the ignorance tax for travel.
It had cost me a lot, and I was stumbling back home thoroughly used-up, beaten down, and scuffed around the edges, but — I was a traveler now.
7 thoughts on “Nepal 105: Ignorance Tax”
I nearly killed myself in Costa Rica, driving around in a 4X4 with faulty brakes on roads that were not paved and were more like a pile of rocks. And I nearly froze in Italy, thinking it’d be warmer than it was. I’ve paid the ignorance tax more times than I’d prefer to. For sure I’ve learned I need to read up more on the places I’m going to travel to. Made for some interesting stories since I survived the jungle drives in Costa Rica, but not so fun at the time.
Sometimes the ignorance tax buys you something you would never otherwise experience. For the first time in my life I recently took an organised tour of Japan, rather than self-cater. One of the activities was a visit to the Miyako Odori, a theatrical performance in Kyoto. As a westerner, I would never have known about this. As it was, the tour operator had booked tickets a whole year previously, and I sat in the front row for a performance which moved me more than any artistic experience I’ve ever had. I guess that’s the exception, though!
“Ignorance taxes” are high and are on a lot of things when you travel (think taxis, prices for locals vs prices for tourists in markets/shops, etc). Some of them are “convenience taxes” such as the ability to book tours in your own language from you computer at home. Language differences are a big fear for a lot of people, followed closely by the fear of the unknown. Returning to a place is much easier/different than visiting for the first time.
Agreed! ‘Convenience tax’ is also a good term.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I have been thinking about this a lot, as a buddy of mine is preparing to climb Mount Rainier on a guided expedition this summer. He is paying thousands of dollars for an activity (climbing) that I love, but would never pay for. But for him, he simply has more money than time, and can’t put in the days outside practicing that I can. He’d rather spend the money-it’s a more convenient way to his goal.
Different approaches but neither is necessarily superior.
Love my jeep. Not because of looks or trends, but because it can get me to places nothing else will.
They are great vehicles for high-clearance roads. I find myself wishing for one sometimes when my Subaru feels just a little too low for comfort!!
I’ve killed to many small vehicles; of course I added some modifications to get the most out of its clearance and articulation. I still have a winch though !!!