Travel That Matters

I’ve finally given in. I never thought I would have a blog. I’ve read more silly, self-absorbed, one dimensional garbage than I care to keep track of. Travel blogs are really the worst. Time after time I see an awkward combination of pictures and random descriptions vomited all over the page. The majority of them are comprised of whirlwind tourist traps where “travelers” went from one city to the next, knocking out all the key places highlighted in their guidebooks. Surely the world must want to know about how you traveled across Europe in a different city every night. And those pictures of you about to gobble the leaning tower of Pisa in one bite. Or your diamond ring the size of the Eiffel tower, those are gold. They’ll be trending on twitter in no time. Don’t forget to outline the exact places you stayed and the exact restaurants you ate at, because you know that so many of us readers are just dying to replicate your exact trip.

 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that people travel so much these days, but I wonder if the affordability and accessibility that we now have has diminished the quality. I vaguely remember a time when people went on trips to a destination. Now, tell someone you visited Germany and they will ask you if you made it to the Eifel Tower and the Coliseum. Because surely if you made it to Germany you didn’t waste your opportunity to travel the whole of Europe. Add to that, the weird association of the icons you managed to snap a photo of with the quality of your trip, and really you might as well just photo shop yourself into a few shots of the Pantheon and the Coliseum. Grab a bite at Maggiano’s, and save yourself a lot of money and the cramped flight.

I am not condemning this type of vacation. I have enjoyed a couple of trips like this myself, but that’s what Facebook is for. Rather than pollute the internet, just drop a few status updates and make a nice album for your mother and best friend to see. Let’s face it, they are probably the only ones who really care. I am ashamed to say, even I have succumbed to the temptation to take strange photos of famous places.

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I am ashamed to post this, but I wanted to give an example. In my defense I had just graduated high school and this was my first real trip abroad. (Notice the date stamp that isn’t even accurate…)

 

The problem with all these useless travel blogs, is that they dilute the real stuff. There are some great insightful writers out there with fantastic experiences that go beyond standing in line for two hours to get into the Louvre. The real value to travel is the insight that it brings. There is so much to be gained from experiencing different ways of thinking and new perspectives on how to live life. The world is full of unique cultures that all have different norms, concerns, solutions, practices, issues, ideas and views. Every country has a different system that is functioning to some extent, and there is great value in realizing that there is always more than one way to do things. Really it isn’t even about the specifics. It isn’t about trying to wrap your brain around why some countries can have a drinking age lower than US’s driving age without causing mass destruction and chaos. Or how many countries have had good universal health care for a hundred years, but we in the USA just can’t seem to figure it out. It goes on and on and on, but the point is that the individual issues that you will encounter and their implications on society are not what is important. It’s the effect that these experiences have on us that matters. It’s impossible to encounter dramatically distinctive world views and not come away changed.

 

Inspired by a few really great blogs, I now set out to bring just this. I won’t waste time flaunting the list of places I’ve visited, or assuring anyone that they simply have to eat at Chantu le Flun or they haven’t experienced ‘Pari’. I want to share the small everyday experiences. The conversations and encounters that shake up my world view, and the cultural experiences that turn my way of thinking on its head. Almost none of these things happen anywhere near the dream destinations and picturesque icons, but really that is what makes them authentic. So, if you find this to be just another load of garbage, I do apologize and hope that you will find your way to some truly insightful writing about what the world really has to offer. Because that is certainly worth reading about.

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