I know, the world of travel has become so easy and convenient recently. Almost anywhere in the world, we can rely on the internet, apps and social media to help us out and find the best of the best. To squeeze every bit of fun, learning and “must-do” out of your trip, whether it lasts two weeks or two years.
In addition to guidebooks, blogs, Twitter, YouTube and all those all inform you about the best places to go and best places to see. It’s easy! Convenient! Those people know what it’s all about, after all, they do this travel thing for a living, right?
But what if I told you that it’s ok to completely let go of all that?
Do you know it’s ok to go somewhere and NOT see any of the “must-see” sights? Not to travel thousands of miles just to stand in line with folks who live around the corner?
It’s absolutely ok to categorically refuse to travel somewhere, because the culture, the history, the sights or the food do not entice you. Yes, even if it’s a place that EVERYBODY seems to agree is magical. Even IF you have the money to see what it’s like, and feel like you should go. You’re not ignorant and close minded because of it, but show that there’s a stubborn spark of individuality left in you.
Don’t visit places just because everybody else tells you you should.
Visit places because your heart and soul are yearning for them, fill you with a wild desire and spark of life. Because they mystify you, and reflect a piece of you. Or because they scare you and test your boundaries, make you step beyond your comfort zone. Go for the bold feelings, the uneasy feelings. Or go for boundless joy. Don’t go for “everybody loves it” and “you gotta do it while there”.
Don’t be a consumer, a product of the society you grew up in.
And if you go somewhere that everybody agrees is magical, and it doesn’t do anything for you, that’s ok. If somewhere sucks, say it out loud, because few on social media will, unless it relates to the official media canon… which wants to sell us things.
It’s ok to categorically refuse anything that the travel industry tells us to do. Go on a hiking trip all by yourself, or live in a monastery. Study something that makes your heart sing, like exploring some obscure jungle animals. Or simply do not do anything at all.
Go somewhere bloggers don’t go because there are no sponsors willing to take them or pay for them. Go to a place that’s not in any guide book, not on TripAdvisor, someplace that nobody has ever blogged about in a language you speak.
By the way, that includes visiting places that are perfectly easy, safe and commercial, developed and modern. There’s no need to live dangerously if you don't want to. Every place has a different, deeper story. Dive into learning a language most would not even learn a few phrases in, become familiar with a culture other visitors see as “weird” and “exotic” because they do not see behind the scenes. Meet the immigrants, those shunned by society. Visit the neighbourhoods where there are no other foreigners – they offer much more for you to explore.
Go and see the ugly places, the ones where locals would never expect a visitor to show up.
Visit the hard places, the ones where nobody is willing to reach you a helping hand or obey your wishes if you pay them enough. Ask questions that hurt, questions that make your mind spin, that might be a little rude. Open up your own world, and theirs.
In the end, all the media wants is to sell us something. An experience. A feeling. A brand. A lifestyle.
Reinforcement of our preconceptions and own social values (ouch).
It’s ok not to fall for any of it. In this world, travel is something that’s being consumed, and we consume what others sell us no less than we buy what’s on promotion in the supermarket or Amazon.
It’s great to drop out of the rat race and travel the world, nomadically. But you know what? There’s no need to make it all about promoting travel. Isn’t it a little contradictive, to leave your 9-5 cubicle world and to become a marketeer for travel, selling this dream, this lifestyle for others who can’t attain it. Like a graphic artist photoshopping models on a magazine, selling a lifestyle which is not feasible for most and has many drawbacks? A lifestyle that does not exist in the way to promote it. Has the thought ever occurred to you?
And just maybe, if you leave all the musts and shoulds behind… you’ll encounter a place, an experience, a feeling that none of these people have experienced before, and it can be all yours.
Even if nobody else understands.