Everyone has a different take and style to traveling. Some people travel to collect honorary badges, like notches in a bedpost, or a little black book. I’m not saying I don’t relish at the collection of stamps and visas in my passport some days, but my purpose and style of travel is drastically different from this. Rather than trying to hit as many places as I can, and see as many sights as I can possibly see, I prefer to take my sweet time, lingering in each place at my leisure.
I despise master plans for travel. Long lists with detailed planned itineraries horrify me. I generally try to do some basic research before traveling to a place, but I like to take things as they come. Most usually my reasons for traveling to a place are because of people I have met. Rather or not I am meeting that person in the place, or their friends and family, the motivation for my travel is almost always people. Sometimes I will decide to travel to a place simply because I have been repeatedly hearing good things about that place. I have found in life many things cluster, both good and bad. As the saying goes, “Chaos clusters.” I have found in much my life I have made created my own path by making spontaneous plans that seem to move along with trends I am observing. For example, in 2010 I had a professor in Korea from Barcelona, who told me many good things about Barcelona. In the next six months I frequently kept hearing about Barcelona from a number of friends and family. When I found myself alone and without plans in Turkey that winter, it only seemed natural to visit Barcelona, which was a delightful surprise.
Local cuisine also plays a large secondary role as well, as does weather. I don’t like to go to places where it snows. Many places on my bucket list are there mainly because of my infatuation for said cuisine. Lebanon and Vietnam are two of these places, both of which I was lucky enough to visit this last year. Some might think that it is crazy to plan so many travels on food, but food plays a big part in human existence and culture, so we should embrace it. Sharing and enjoying food together brings us closer, and reminds us of our humanity.
homemade couscous in Tunisia
When traveling solo, as I often do, I prefer to take the road less traveled, something that can typically only be done when you are open to what appears in front of you. Having a plan takes away from this. My goal of traveling is not to see as many places as I can, but to get a strong sense for the place I am and the type of people who are there. If I find someplace I like traveling, I might stick around for a while.
I can spend hours sitting in a nice cafe, writing, reading, chatting, people watching, or just sitting and thinking. To some this is absolutely boring, but when you travel as much as I do, the constant eagerness to conquer places by visiting every tourist sight in your guide book becomes overkill fast. If I lived like that I would have been bored and exhausted from travel ages ago. I’m not a sprinter, I’m a long distance runner. My approach to life and travel is that of a marathon runner. It’s not about speed, but pacing yourself, so you can endure a long ongoing journey.
By economist & writer, Heather R Morgan (@HeatherReyhan)