How do you define travel?

I’ve been following Caz and Craig at YTravel for a while now (if you haven’t yet, go check them out at www.ytravelblog.com. I also follow them on instagram and highly recommend you do to as they post terrific photos of their current around Australia trip. I can’t wait til they get to my part of the country!).

Caz wrote a post this week called How do you define travel? and I’ve been thinking about it for two days now. My thoughts, as usual, were too long to clog up their comments section so I’m writing it here instead.

So, I’ll start by saying I agree with almost everything Caz said (and most of the comments to her post). At the end of the day, you travel for you, so travel is what you make of it. There is no right or wrong way – short trips, long trips, near or far, camping or 5 star luxury, solo or with friends or family – whatever makes you happy.

Did you see how I said I agree with almost everything Caz said? So, here’s where we differ a little.

Judgment.

First, I don’t think that judgement is always bad. It allows me to hear their opinion so I can perhaps adjust my own. Sometimes you need someone to say “you don’t know what you’re missing” for you to think about whether you are missing it.

But I don’t want to get all philosophical (and probably lawyer-ey) trying to define judgment so I’ll move on.

When I read Caz’s post I was mentally fist-pumping the air thinking “yes! I’m sick of all those judgey people! I hope they all read this and change their wicked ways!” Then I thought a bit more, and realised I may be one of them. OK, I am definitely one of them. People in glass houses and all that.

So, let me defend myself, or at least explain.

I love hearing of other people’s travels or travelling plans. Usually I’m interested to hear about ideas, what they liked or didn’t like, and sometimes I listen so I can give them tips or ideas or my own stories. I try to stay open-minded with travel plans that aren’t my cup of tea, but sometimes it’s hard. Here are some examples of when I absolutely did judge someone else’s travels – all are real life, but I’ve abbreviated them to protect the innocent:

  • a family member went to Tasmania and told us that they didn’t think Port Arthur was very interesting. Turns out they drove to the entrance but didn’t want to pay to get in, so didn’t actually see much of it.
  • a friend of a friend who visited London, and happily told us how she saw Buckingham Palace, Tower of London etc – and had the photos to prove it. Ask her what she like about these places? “Oh, I didn’t go in. Took the bus, got off, took a photo, that’s all I needed”.
  • another friend did a 3 week Contiki tour of Europe and now feels that she has “done Europe” and there is no need to go back.
  • numerous people I know who have been to Bali, Thailand, Fiji or the like to stay in a 5 star resort, seen absolutely nothing else other than the resort.
  • watching 60 Minutes on the weekend and they had a story about climbing Mt Everest. They said a lot of rich people now chopper in and/or out of the base of the climb (or somewhere close). Having made it to base camp myself, the mere thought of missing Namche Bazaar makes me cry for them.

If you can read these stories and not want to have some type of strong opinion, my hat is off to you, you’re better than me.

For me, a large part of travel is all about experience. Whether it is of culture, people, language, food, history, architecture, relaxation, adventure – it’s about an experience. I can’t really relate to people who travel purely to tick something of a list. If you aren’t interested in a Buckingham Palace, that is fine with me. Don’t go. And if you do go, be honest – don’t tell me there was nothing to see if you didn’t even try and see it.

Maybe I’m harsh calling people who fly to base camp cheaters. After all, I flew in and out of Lukla (9-10 hike away). I took the chair lift up Mt Kosciusko, so I only had to walk the bit at the top. But I still feel that they are skipping a large part of the experience.

I also struggle with going somewhere to only see the inside of your hotel room. I don’t have a problem with people travelling for relaxation, and I’m sure there is nothing more relaxing than a great resort. So I don’t have a problem as such with the style of travel, more the way it’s portrayed. If I go to Vanuatu and only see the resort, have I really seen Vanuatu? If I’m on a cruise ship that docks in 5 ports but I never get off, have I really been to those ports? I’ve had a stopover in Singapore airport, does that mean I’ve been to Singapore? More importantly, is it unfair of me to make this call about other people? Maybe.

I think perhaps what I judge the most is how people portray their travel style. If you are looking for a relaxing 5 star holiday, fine. If you choose to take it in Bali so you get a stamp in your passport and can tell everyone you went overseas, that’s fine too. But don’t tell me you had to go to Fiji or Thailand because there are not resorts that offer the same in Australia unless you have really researched it. If you aren’t interested in history and only went to a museum because the Lonely Planet said you should, then say so. Don’t tell me it was dull when you weren’t interested in the first place, or when you didn’t even go in. If you climb Mt Everest and fly as much of it as you can, own up that you were there to say you had been on the top, not for the experience of culture or the journey.

I may still judge you a bit for not trying new things, or not going in with an open mind, but I think I’m OK with that. I’ll try and keep my judgey side to myself.

To be fair, I’m also fairly OK with other people judging my travel style, which happens regularly. I get comments that I am gross and crazy to hike for days without a shower. Even worse, I pay for the privilege! But I kind of love that judgment.

Caz asked her followers how they define travel. I could probably come up with many thoughts that are a bit poetical, but most of them were already in her post or in the comments. So I’ll take the challenge a little more literally.

Below, in – my first home-made meme (featuring a photo of my Dad climbing Mt Walsh) – is my favourite travel quote. I first saw this on the wall of the YHA in Franz Josef, New Zealand (excellent YHA, btw) and something in my brain clicked. This one quote explains why I’ve always detested the term “tourist”.

Tourist meme

Wherever I go, I am to there to see what there is to be seen. Whether I am in my own town or the other side of the world, I try to experience what I can. That is what travel is to me.

6 thoughts on “How do you define travel?

  1. Loved reading your thoughts here and thank you for joining in. Judgement is a real hard one as human nature means we’ll all do it. I think the trick is to be aware of your judgements and not attach yourself to them. As you say use it as a means to know what you do and don’t want and then walk away from it. Choose not to hold it against other people, but just accept that their way is what suits them best, and so leave them to it, while you continue doing what best serves you. Judgement becomes evil when we use it as a means to beat our chest and use it as a means to validate ourselves publicly.

  2. Haha. I’ve couchsurfed and HelpXed, but also simply gone to Buckingham Palace to look in from the outside and snap a few photos (not really the kind of thing I’m interested in going inside to look around at – I generally get bored within half an hour. I think we spent an hour at the Louvre before giving up – but we got in free as under 26s).

    I seem to get a lot of judgement for our relatively extravagant spending in SE Asia – we spent reasonably freely though not excessively and moved somewhat quickly through the region (jacking up our visa and transport costs), but apparently anyone who isn’t spending $20 a day or less is DOING IT WRONG. For me the joy of such a cheap region was yes, we had our frugal $30 days but we could also splurge and still only spend $50 or 60 for the day.

    • Wow, can’t believed people told you that you were doing it wrong! Any travel is better than none. I totally understand not enjoying museums, especially as you have given it a go at some point. I love them (way more than I thought I would), but I know they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

  3. Lucinda, thanks for a thought provoking article. In my opinion every person has different interests, wants and needs in all areas of their lives which include travel. As a result I use a philosophy of ‘each to their own’ – basically as long as they are not hurting anyone then whatever style of travel they like is OK with me.

    I also have my own unique approach to travel which others may find strange, but that is OK as well.

    So I try not to judge others, I just appreciate the differences and provide positive feedback to their respective adventures, big and small!

    • I agree with you. I know I can be judgmental, but I do try to be aware of what I’m doing and to keep it in check. I don’t always judge – for example I have one friend who freely admits she is a luxury traveller. She could barely even look at my photos from hiking the Milford Track! But I think I appreciate her honesty, and the fact that she still opens herself up to new experiences within her travel style. Thanks for commenting, it’s helping me sort out my own mind!

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