With 5 years of full time travel and over 60 different countries stamps in my passport my “Philosophy of Travel” is starting emerge.
I have realized that traveling in a country is not only about the geography, seeing the sights, tasting its cuisine or it’s getting to know its people – the experience of travel . It is a way to observe how I as a traveler react to the situations travel throws my way. I now see travel as a dance between the native inhabitants and myself as the visitor.
Sometimes a little time is required after visiting a country before being able to honestly reflect on the experience. This is true especially in those destinations where travel can be a tough slog, especially as an independent traveler. These countries are usually totally amazing but can be very difficult to travel through. Countries like India and Indonesia come to mind. On reflection I realize that I saw some amazing things when visiting these countries, however at the time I was standing in a ‘pile of shit’ while being pestered to death.
As a traveler I often feel as if I have ATM tattooed on my forehead. It is the same everywhere you have tourists – locals look at travelers as …
a) being wealthy (which most of the time you may well be, relativity speaking) and…
b) an opportunity to extract some cash.
The approach as to how money is extracted from the traveler may differ from place to place. Sometimes it is full on, in your face and other times it is a little sneakier. Sure street smarts and travel savvy will insulate you a little from a bleeding wallet, however keeping your guard up all the time gets tiring.
Time has the effect of rounding the ‘rough’ corners off of a travel experience. Time tempers the annoyance of being hounded by touts and constantly being ripped off, as well as lessening the effects of stomach parasites or mosquito borne diseases. Time also has the effect of relieving the effect of those horrifying smells.
Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen. Benjamin Disraeli
I have realized that the most endearing memories of travel, are those from the places that were the most discombobulating or the most difficult to travel in. The more a place ‘pisses you off’ or frustrates you – the more opportunity you have as a traveler to learn about yourself.
Travelling in Cuba, fit into this category for me.
I found Cuba a fascinating place to travel and at the same time a very frustrating one.
There were things about Cuba that drove me nuts, there were aspects that made me feel really good. At times I felt like laughing and crying at the same time. For greater insights into what I mean see our post ‘Cuba Time – Going with the Flow’.
What our trip to Cuba has shown us is that we have become “soft travelers”. I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of ‘house sitting’ and the fact that we house sit up to 90% of the year.
When we are house sitting, we are living in one place rather that traveling constantly (especially if you are performing repeat sits and already know the ropes!). Sure you still have to deal with the annoyances of everyday living. Who doesn’t, however; you are not constantly spending massive amounts of energy every day, just to look after the basic needs of where am I going to sleep tonight, is this stranger going to try and con me, or where and what am I going to eat.
If it was not for house sitting we probably would have quit travelling after about a year.
- because we could not afford to travel in the standard that house sitting affords us and
- We would be burnt out from travel stress
What our recent trip to Cuba revealed to me was. People are people – no matter where you go in the world. If I allow myself to react, tense up and build a wall to shield myself from people who get in my face or annoy me– I will be isolating myself from the people and the situations that make travel (and life for that matter) a rewarding experience.
Traveling is a mirror reflecting back to the traveler one’s own life and how you live it – the traveler just has to be open to opening their eyes and seeing what is being reflected back at them.
Travel is a mirror. When a monkey looks in, no philosopher looks out!