Most of us have probably been a tourist before.
That excitement-fueled frenzy of having to see as many tourist destinations as possible when visiting a new place for the first time. To take a picture in front of every unique (and probably important) monument, to visit all of the recommended shopping areas, and taste as many local delicacies as possible, in a limited time period.
It’s like a whirlwind of packed activities, you barely even have time to breathe.
It’s fun, yes. But when your trip is over, what do you really remember?
Most of the time, when such a trip is over, all I am left with is just exhaustion, tons of photos buried in my camera’s gallery, and a vague satisfaction of knowing, “Ok, great, one country ticked off from my bucket list.”
But let me ask you this: When you looked at those monuments and famous destinations, did you try to find out the importance and the stories behind them? When you visited the local markets and bargained in the shopping areas, did you stop to observe the lifestyle of the locals and wonder? When you were busy taking pictures of the local food, did you try to understand more about their culture and be immersed in it?
When you left that place you just visited, did you gain more insights about the world? Did you discover something about yourself that you never knew before?
Yes, most of us have been tourists.
But I think, it’s time for us to learn how to be travellers.
Travel should not be about simply ticking off a checklist of cities and countries, and decorating our home with local crafts, postcards, and magnets that we acquired in our journeys.
Instead, travel should be one of the most enriching experiences we have. Because if you think about it, it’s one of the most precious chances we have, to learn something new beyond the scope of our daily lives.
Below are some simple ideas (and resolutions) that I would like to share… to make your trips a lot more meaningful and memorable.
- Take your time. There’s no reason to rush. I know that tickets are expensive, and time is limited. But those things should never pressure you to rush into the activities, and prevent you from truly taking in the experiences and the wonders of this new place. Enjoy the little details. Savor each moment and make them count. Because at the end of the day, the only “target” or “checklist” that should be met is I had a fulfilling trip.
- Talk to the locals. Engage in a meaningful conversation (something far beyond asking for directions or bargaining for a price). Instead, ask about what activities they like to do, about their lives, or any topics you are interested in. You’ll be surprised on what stories and insights that you’d discover.
- Take a break from bustling city life, and take the time to appreciate nature. Every city and every place have their own unique wildlife and sceneries. Stare into the ocean. Breathe in the mountain air. Walk barefoot on grasslands. Sit underneath a tree. And I have found that these simple activities are the ones that will recharge you the most.
- Learn about the history of the place. Forget your camera for a moment… (I know you’ll remember it soon enough anyway)… and read the information, or listen well to your local tour guide… So that the picture you take will have a story and meaning behind it, instead of just some random pretty scenery.
- Keep a travel picture journal. Polaroids are great. But if not, online journals are fine as well. Write a few sentences underneath each picture, putting details of your experiences, meaningful stories, and the people you met. And in a few years’ time, you’ll be able to relive those travel memories again.
Of course, not all of us are full-time travellers. Once a trip is over, we all go back to own respective jobs and mundane lives. But I believe that once in a while… we should go – and truly breathe in the beauty that the world has to offer.
Be a traveller. And never, lose your sense of wonder. 🙂
Photos by A.