Travel is about discovering new perspectives.
A premise we hold to be true, and have always offered our clients.
This is why we selected both these images of Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain, to demonstrate the point about challenging how we see—and do—things.
And why we’re sharing this question: Is Travel The New Smoking?
Eric Weiner had devised a few new principles, refined a couple of existing ones, and stitched them together into a kind of Travel Manifesto, for a new way of travelling, aspirationally.
Manifesto suggests boldness and daring—revolution, even. This is precisely what we need.
FIVE WAYS TO BE A BETTER TRAVELLER
By trying to see everything, I run the risk of seeing nothing. If I’ve learned anything during this time away from travel, it’s that it’s better to travel well than to be well traveled.
Better to experience places than collect them. When we collect places, we’re in “getting” mode.
When we experience them, we’re in “being” mode. And that’s when we create the memories that last.
Going forward, I will triage my trips, careful not to confuse the popular with the good.
Popular places are, by definition, over-traveled. There’s something to be said for scruffy places, frumpy places, even boring places. Perhaps there are no boring places, only boring travelers.
Traveling for leisure is a relatively recent phenomenon.
For most of human history, people traveled to flee a war (or to start one), to seek God or treasure, to chart new sea routes, or to explore new wonders.
It’s time we turn to purpose-driven travel, especially now that the pandemic has laid bare the hidden (and not-so-hidden) costs of tourism.
When we take a vacation, in a way we vacate ourselves. When we travel with purpose—even if that purpose is as simple as traveling with an open mind and a kind heart—we fill ourselves, and, ideally, consider our impact on a destination.
Our purpose needn’t be overly ambitious. We can’t all save the world or the dolphins or anything else. But we all can travel for good.
That “good” can take many forms: It could be as simple as supporting Black-owned businesses in a new city or as all-encompassing as a collaborative expedition with climate scientists.
High on my list in this new world: Helping biologists gather data in the Serengeti.
Less important than the particulars is a fundamental shift in attitude, from getting to giving.
Might all this purposing get messy? Sure. But travel has always been messy.
The notion of the phantom traveler, traversing a place without leaving a mark, is a myth.
Our presence changes a place. The question is how. Do we leave it better than we found it or worse?
Speed is the enemy of travel, because, as the French philosopher Simone Weil observed, speed is the enemy of attention.
Of all the indecencies she witnessed on the factory floors of 1930s France, the greatest, she said, was the violation of the workers’ attention. The conveyor belt moved at a velocity incompatible with any other kind of attention, “since it drains the soul of all save a preoccupation with speed.”
Good travel is slow travel. Loiter. Linger. Find a café in Amsterdam or La Paz and plant yourself there for longer than seems normal. I guarantee you will see or hear or feel something you would have missed otherwise.
Variety may be the spice of life, but familiarity is its main course. Even before the pandemic, I found myself less interested in traveling to new destinations than in returning to old, familiar ones, and seeing them anew, through slowed down eyes.
As a rule, I estimate how long I should reasonably spend in a place—then add 20 percent. I’ve never regretted the extra time.
Now, after the forced stillness of quarantine, I’ve learned that my capacity for slowness is greater than I thought.
I’m amending the 20-Percent Rule to a 30- or even 40-Percent Rule. You can travel too quickly. You cannot travel too slowly.
When we travel, we usually expand ourselves not by turning inward but by interacting with other people.
Do we see only differences—language, cuisine, customs—or do we also identify commonalities, a shared humanity?
This is empathy. If we don’t empathize, at least a little, with those we encounter, we never really see them.
Empathizing with other people doesn’t mean becoming them.
I know it’s fashionable to brag that you “travel like a local.” No, you don’t.
You travel like a foreigner. That’s because you are one. And that’s OK.
The empathetic traveler doesn’t try to fit in. She knows that is impossible and that there are advantages to seeing places at an angle.
One of the best books about U.S. democracy was written by a Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville.
This is no coincidence. An observant outsider often sees what insiders do not.
One great way to make yourself a more empathetic traveler? Travel alone.
A solo traveler says talk to me. Traveling solo makes us vulnerable, and vulnerability lies at the heart of the travel experience.
An added benefit: The lone traveler can roam with a lighter touch and a smaller footprint than a group.
Travel, of course, is not drudgery. At its best, it is not only meaningful but fun. Otherwise, why bother?
Too often, I realize, I’ve either expected too much from a place (and left feeling disappointed) or expected too little and therefore closed myself off to what a place might offer.
The solution, I’ve learned, is to expect nothing yet be open to everything.
Expectations are the enemy of happiness. Expectations, even positive ones, rob you of the sudden beauty of a first impression.
When I first saw the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, I wasn’t sure if I was responding to the actual place or to some idealized image I’d absorbed from all those Instagram posts.
Maybe Angkor Wat really is beautiful; maybe it’s overrated.
There is no correct reaction, of course, only an authentic one—and it’s easier to have an authentic reaction if our perspective is unmuddied by the thoughts (and Instagram feeds) of others.
That’s why I’ve learned to prepare, but not over-prepare, for a trip.
I’ll read historical accounts of my destination but not contemporary ones—and, yes, I really do go on an Instagram fast.
Questions and Answers
I was recently inspired by a friend who insists on eating only “quality calories.”
Not necessarily calories high in protein or low in sugar, but calories they will enjoy fully.
Every journey comes at a financial cost, an environmental cost, and a social cost.
Before booking that flight, I will now ask myself: Is the cost worth it? Are these quality miles?
I’ll find the answer not on a spreadsheet but in my heart.
Acknowledgement: A Travel Manifesto: 5 Ways to Be a Better Traveler by Eric Weiner, AFAR