The “right” way to travel – an editorial by Mike
Every traveller has some type of goal. Upon planning this trip, my goal was to get as deep as possible into the countries I would be visiting. Evan and I bought hammock tents, first aid kits, compasses, and all other types of camping gear. We contemplated buying rock climbing gear and pretty much everything else we saw at REI (camping mega-store). Only four weeks into my trip and I’ve already left a few hundred dollars worth of mostly untouched gear at various hostels. The lighter the better, so whenever I look at my bag I’m contemplating what I can ditch next.
But back to the point… Through conversation with other travellers, it’s interesting to see how they are approaching their journey, and then to watch how their goals manifest themselves.
The holiday partier:
Throughout all of SE Asia, there are plenty of young travellers who spend their days hungover. You can see them eating heavy meals in the early afternoon with bloodshot eyes, scanning the ‘Nightlife’ section of their Lonely Planet’s for where they will get pissed next. The climax of their travels is usually centered around a Full Moon party in Ko Phagnan or drunken tubing down the Nam Song river.
The culture hound:
These types of culture-seekers are also very prevalent throughout the SE Asia trail. Their goal is to get as far away from the holiday partiers as possible. You can find them on the outskirts of town in the most boutique guest house, commenting about how it’s “so great to be away from all the obnoxious drunks and loud music.” In reality, they just spend an extra hour or so a day commuting to and from the town they’ve so gladly been able to escape. The culture hound is also on a neverending mission to find the most remote villages. The towns that cater to tourists can’t be considered real life. They’ll spend time in internet cafes eating western food, trying to figure out how to get as far as possible from internet cafes and western food. A Lonely Planet is useful to them only for the history and transportation sections…suggested activites are more of a “what to avoid” list. They might tell you a story about how they interacted with the cutest little village kids in a town where no one has ever been, oblivious to the local schoolchildren dancing in the street right next to them.
This person is looking to do it all. Just ask them what’s planned for tomorrow. “Well I’m waking up at 5am to see the monks’ procession. From there I’m going to the market to buy food for my cooking class. Before noon I’ll swing by the tiger sanctuary on my way to the biggest bungee jump ever. I think I’m going to the waterfall after that, but I still need to plan what I’m going to do from 3pm on.” They’re determined to use their fifteen days of vacation to see the entirety of three or four countries. They’ll have time to actually experience their travels when they get back home and browse the photos.
I could keep going with this list, but I’ve probably made enough judgements for today…
Of course, it’s unlikely that someone would fit perfectly into their respective travelling style “buckets” I’ve created above. Personally, I find myself jumping between them – sometimes even inventing new buckets. I’ll admit I completely started out as a culture hound. I didn’t want to see any Westerners, especially not Americans, on my entire trip. Then I realized I was alienating myself from a fantastic community of travellers. After a week or so, I was taking on the thrillist role. Every possible experience had to be done. I wanted to give my money to every tour agency around. Elephants, motorbikes, ziplining, jungle parties, massages, hikes…I needed to do it all! It was impossible to sleep for more than 5 hours without feeling guilty. And actually, for the last couple days, I’ve been a bit of a holiday partier. I think it might have to do with the abundance of Beerlao that seems to be everywhere.
In the end, although the die-hard culture hound might tell you otherwise, I don’t really think there’s a “right” way to travel. You do it one way, you see what you get from it, and you react. As unique as each person is, so too is their way of experiencing this world and their travels. I like to take the time to consciously analyze what bucket I am currently in. There might be a better one to try to fit myself into.