Sunday, June 20, 2010

Finding travel balance

At about the halfway point of my world journey now and I have started to reflect on lessons learned from traveling abroad. One thing I have realized is to be wary of what I will call engaging in "consumption tourism". What I mean by this is that one's natural temptation while traveling (this certainly applies to me) may be to figure out all the highlights of a destination and then rush around in long days of trying to check all the boxes for places visited in a certain location.

While it's certainly good to do this to some extent -- after all you might be considered a fool if you visited Paris for the first time without seeing the Eiffel Tower -- you need to be careful. Too many days of rushing around from sight to sight will leave you exhausted, and you won't be able to properly enjoy the place you came to see! Rather, when you feel tired you need to be willing to accept a "slow day", where you may do very little but walk and eat and people-watch. Even though you may come away with less to write about in your travel blog, these restful periods can be the most rewarding. Sometimes you observe cultural differences that you couldn't see while rushing around from place to place. Sometimes you might see things in advertisements which are unique to the places you are traveling. And sometimes you just need to slow down to keep your sanity in places which are frustrating and bewildering. Once your batteries are recharged, by all means go hit the must-see destinations and give your camera a workout!

I have learned that it is very important to "experience" a travel destination, not merely "consume". Doing the latter is like eating a meal, satisfying for a little while but only until you get hungry again. By doing the former, you will have more powerful memories that you can remember forever.

So it's important to balance and not try to do too much in one place. Often this means not doing everything the tour book tells you -- you will just need to return to the place to experience the rest!

It has also been difficult to balance experiencing with reflection. Hence the blogging frequency has taken a hit. Though not carrying a laptop with me has been something of an impediment, mostly I have just been deciding that I want to spend most of my vacation seeing new things rather than sitting in front of a computer! I'd rather seek out new photos to take rather than Internet cafes to post them, and would rather hop from sight to sight rather than one Wifi hotspot to another.

I am in Phuket, Thailand now for some restful beach time. This also should give me plenty opportunity to catch up and post my best photos from Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore!

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