Whenever meeting new people, whether it's in a typical hostel situation somewhere in the world or something completely different, I noticed one question that oddly upsets me. It comes in three variations: 'What is the best thing you have experienced during your travels?' - 'What is the best thing you have ever done?' and, 'What is the best place you have ever been?'.
Now, I am particularly crap at small talk and it might be very that the person asking this simply wants to make some conversation, and/or learn more about me. But it offends me, because there is no easy answer for this, because it's partially too complex, partially too private to discuss in a party-meeting-happy times-situation.
It seems to imply that what were are doing now, in this very moment, is not fun, not good enough, not LIFE enough. Is NOW so bad? Do I seem UNHAPPY?
I once had a friend tell me that I must be 'one of those naturally happy people'. While I'm sure he didn't mean it that way, to me, it sounded a little like he was saying 'you're such a simpleton, you need ridiculously little to be happy'. And maybe that's right, because as long as I'm healthy and free to do and go where I want to, I am.
It's also a questions only men ever ask, and on some level, it shouts 'competition' to me. It also sometimes comes as 'Tell me your craziest travel story'. I don't think getting mugged in Cambodia or a guy dying in front of my eyes in Buenos Aires is something I should boast about.
THE BEST also seems to assume that the now, the everyday is lame, and that's something that's diametrical to my life philosophy. Long ago, I decided not to waste a day in my life, not have a day where I won't do something fun and something that gets me a little further in life, even if it's just reading a page of a book that I will learn something from.
While there are countries and places I've enjoyed more than others, there is not one I would call 'the best'.
The best thing was hanging out in my flat in Germany, watching British comedy and drinking wine with friends when we were all equally broke.
The best thing was having that 'wow, I can just go places' moment when I first visited Japan (my first trip outside Europe, just a little over 2 years ago!).
The best thing was reading a book and drinking a cup of tea.
Sitting in a cafe in Morocco and drinking obscenely sweet milk coffee.
Buying bread at St George's market in Belfast and chatting with the vendor.
Waking up today and realising I can do whatever I want to, but just having a lot of coffee, write, and make Vietnamese fried tofu in tomato sauce instead.
All of those are amazing, wonderful, rich moments and there isn't one that tops the others. And it's just a random selection.
So I think from now on, my answer to the question should be:
THE BEST THING I HAVE DONE IS LIVING.
THE BEST PLACE I HAVE BEEN IS THIS EARTH.