Is this a new series called “Random Rants”? Not sure, I haven’t decided yet! I’m not even sure if this is a rant or not, just a post about how travel has changed my opinion on something…When I first started travelling, I did all the usual typical stuff, you know…visit the popular sights in each city (Tiananmen Square when in Beijing, Eiffel Tower in Paris, Empire State Building in New York etc.) but over the last 10 years I have changed and realised something VERY important to my travels, and hopefully to yours as well. And that is that THIS IS MY JOURNEY. I will go where I want, when I want and with who I want. There is a strong feeling from fellow travellers that this is indeed the case. There are no rules whatsoever, just GO WHERE YOU WANT. Don’t stick to the rules and get off the beaten track. And enjoy YOUR journey!
It’s taken me a while to come to this conclusion, but one thing I was thinking of is when I meet another traveller and they say to me something like “you didn’t really see Tokyo if you were only there for 3 days” or “You haven’t really been to Venezuela if you missed out on Angel Falls”. These sorts of comments and attitudes annoy me now, when they didn’t used to. Why was I only in Tokyo for a weekend? I went there with a mate to watch a rock concert as I had a Friday off work, so made it into a weekend. Yes, I missed lots of the “so called main sights” but this is my journey. How do you know I wanted to see the “so called main sights” anyway? Plus – don’t you think it’s better to have spent 3 days in Tokyo than zero? Live your own travel journey and do what you want!
A good mate of mine has been to Cambodia, but he didn’t go to Angkor Wat. Do you think that makes him any less of a traveller? No, of course not. This guy has stories of his visit to the Killing Fields, the Tuol Sleng concentration camp, getting lost in Phnom Penh and almost punching a thief on a night bus. I’d actually say the fact that he didn’t visit Angkor Wat probably makes for a better story. He didn’t do the usual touristy thing, and as he said himself “I missed out on seeing Angkor Wat, so what?”. My friend, who I hope won’t mind the name drop is Chaz from Belfast, also a travelling Northern Irishman with a buzz about him and a sense of wonder.
I also know a girl who went all the way to Peru without seeing Machu Picchu. Again, her choice and she has many a travel story to tell of other things she did in Peru. Again she is no less a traveller than anyone else.
It’s also important for me to visit a church and a football stadium in almost every city I visit. I’d gladly forfeit seeing a “top sight” in order to visit a football stadium. In La Paz in Bolivia a few years back, I didn’t go to San Pedro Prison, nor did I do “the Death Road” BUT I stood on the pitch at the world’s highest national football stadium. Loved it, this is my journey remember and I’ll go where I want, when I want, with who I want and for as long as I want. How amazing that I’ve stood in the centre circle of the world’s highest national football pitch!!
I must admit this post has taken a bit of maturity and experience to get me into this mindset and I have changed over the years. In the past I have also been guilty of telling people, “Don’t miss Activity A if you’re in City J” or “If you visit country X you MUST EAT food v”. No you mustn’t!! Do what you want, create your own travel journey and try not to criticise others. We all love travel right? So let’s enjoy this planet together without making others feel they’ve missed something. They haven’t missed anything – it’s their journey remember!
Here’s a few personal examples:
– I lived in Australia for two years and “missed out” on seeing Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef (but I camped in the mountains of Poatina, visited the Antarctic centre in Tasmania and saw the Blowhole at Kiama 😉 )
– I went to Peru ONLY to do the Inca Trail. Two days after finishing the hike, I left Peru having not even visited any other cities other than Cusco and Ollantaytambo
– I’ve been to Brazil twice but haven’t been to Rio de Janeiro and didn’t even want to go there (BUT I relaxed on the beach in Recife, saw waterfalls at Iguazu, white water rafted in Juquitiba and had some utterly amazing nights out in Sao Paulo)
– I was born on the island of Ireland but I’ve never kissed the Blarney Stone or been to Galway (However I’m proud of my roots – I have carried my Northern Ireland flag around the world with me for over 10 years!!!)
So next time someone says to you “You didn’t really see CITY G because you didn’t visit TOP SIGHT A”, turn and tell them “This is my journey”. Enjoy the lifestyle fellow travellers and Don’t Stop Living!!
There’s a Key Song for this post which fits, thanks to Noel Gallgher:
This is my journey is a post from Jonny Blair on Don’t Stop Living – a lifestyle of travel.