There are those that mount up upon their mighty tour buses, snap a picture or two from an open window, and call it an adventure. And to you, I say … bravo (with a small b, of course. LOL). For you did make the effort to leave your neighborhood and well painted fence, and venture out to see something new and novel.
Seriously, I do applaud you, even if I prefer to do it a tad differently.
A few years back, Nikki and I traveled to Costa Rica. Did something semi-touristy that resulted in some very painful and twisted muscles. (Ever been Canyoning?) So much so that in our quest the next day to find medical help, we somehow landed in a completely awesome freaking adventure. Sort of a “Where’s Waldo”, coupled with pain medication and a nap in a strangers front yard, staring up at a volcano. The point being, when we travel, we somehow seek and find the strangest of things. (And that one also included getting directions from a one-legged American veteran at a roadside novelty stand. Go figure).
Touristy things are good. No question. One doesn’t go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower, right? But for us, we also need to understand everything around that monument. The people who live there. What are they like? What is their day? What do they eat? This is why we mostly stay in AirBnbs when we travel. To talk to the hosts. To shop at the local stores. To try to get a feel for what local life is really like.
We love people. We often use them instead of maps. Asking a stranger where XYZ is. Them giving you a partial direction, and a great story. Then moving on the path and asking another person for the next leg. Going to Meetups and making friends, who can take you to the best of places that no tour book can ever hope to surpass. Telling your taxi driver to pick your dinner for you, and having them eat there as well. (Best flipping fish and chips ever, by the way!).
We also try very hard to pick the “lowest” and slowest form of transportation. Walking is key, obviously. But so are things like city buses. Metros. They are how the locals travel, so to get into their world you need to mimic how they go from A-Z. Yep, it can be scary trying to decipher a bus route in a language you can’t understand, but even if it takes you somewhere other than what you hoped for, there is a good chance that it might be interesting as well. For instance, we hopped on a train in Italy, not knowing if we were even going to the right destination. We were hoping for Venice, but weren’t sure until we walked out of the station and saw the Grand Canal. Which was a seriously funny and happy moment, because we were positive we had failed in our quest.
Speaking of language … fluency is not required to explore. Sure, in some places (like the United States sadly) it’s harder to move about without knowing the popular dialect. But usually, it just becomes a game. Pantomime. Google Translate. Finding someone who speaks English and French and then another who speaks French and German. Play “Pass The Secret”. And yea, we’ve done that. In a laundromat in Cologne Germany. Took about eight people, in who knows how many languages, to help us get detergent from an automated dispenser into a washing machine. And everyone had a hoot of a time doing it.
I think the trick is not to try too hard. To be open. Which doesn’t always come naturally to me. I tend to have a planner’s soul. But I also have this incredible need to understand. To know the background of something, and to follow the trails wherever they lead.
This also takes this essay to somewhere other than just “travel”. For you see, I have a passion. To educate the masses on a basic principal. That even though locations change, that clothing and accents become something else, life ain’t so different here and there. People, places … they all do have a common thread. Common needs. I find it horrific that we humans draw these little lines on maps and declare what’s inside them to be so great and wondrous that we are willing to kill others who dare to state that theirs is better.
In exploring cultures, I want to bring what I discover to those that did not make the trip. I believe that if we all choose to look outside of our lines, the world will become more peaceful. It’s easy to destroy or ignore suffering when you are ignorant of your target. It’s impossible when you know it.
So … Travel. Cultures. Enlightenment. They all go hand in hand. People, Language, and Transportation. We try very hard to be as open as we can for each. To be honest and inquisitive. To share. We travel as much for ourselves as we do for others. And to do that, we almost always step outside of the tour bus.
For the most part, we’ve got this financially (especially if you buy our book!). But, and there’s always a but, a little help won’t be turned away. If you enjoy what you see and want to help out, please consider becoming a Patron.
And while you’re at it, perhaps head over to Amazon and pick up my new novel: Letters To A Dead Uncle. On the shelves and in the Kindle Store. It’s a travel novel, of sorts. Just me writing to my dearly departed Uncle Jimmy about my latest exploits. More details on the home page!