I have huge respect for the travel community. Huge.
Without you guys, I wouldn’t have discovered all these new destinations on my wishlist, honed my voice as a travel writer or made so many new friends. And there’s really nobody I’ve come across that I dislike, so this post isn’t aimed at anyone in particular. Just something I’ve been thinking about for awhile, and then I was inspired by Steph’s post at 20-Something Travel.
I feel a lot of travel material out there attacks the way people travel. Everyone’s all about anti-materialism and being minimalist, and they’re competitive. People boast the lack of items they own. Everyone’s deeply involved in aid organizations, fundraising, and relief efforts.
Then there’s the “tourist” stigma. Like wandering around being amazed by your surroundings is a bad thing. Like finding excitement in even the most frequented destinations is somehow wrong.
And the “get to know the locals, not other travellers” advice. Because other travellers aren’t worth the time?
Don’t get me wrong, all these aspects of the travel world are amazing. The people who assemble organizations and participate in causes are outstanding, and should be commended for their hard work. However, I’m at the point in my life right now where I contribute where I can, but simply do not have the resources/time to devote myself anywhere else. Does this make me a bad person? No.
And being minimalist? I like shopping. I like trying on new outfits, mixing and matching, feeling good and going out on the town with my friends. I don’t necessarily own a lot (my bed and my laptop are the only items of value), but I care about the things I do own. Could I give up these things if I had to? Absolutely. But I don’t want to. Wanna fight about it?
As for being a tourist…if you’re exploring anywhere new, you’re a damned tourist. If you’re a white Canadian wandering around Seoul, you stick out like a sore thumb, even if you actually live there. This is not a bad thing. It shows you’re willing to leave your comfort zones, try something new. Who gives a shit if you’re snapping pictures of everything you see, wearing an “I Love NYC” shirt and fanny-pack? Who the hell gave anybody else the right to judge?
People are worth your time. It doesn’t matter if they’re a tourist, expat, long-term traveller, local, or business person. Everybody has a story to tell, a relatable experience, something to gossip about over a beer. If I’m on the other side of the planet and I happen to run into a friendly Canadian, hell yeah we’re hanging out.
For me, travel is about knowledge and fun. I do the research beforehand, and have fun while I’m there. It’s about taking pleasure in the smallest of moments, whether it’s uncovering some secret, quiet valley at Gros Morne National Park or gawking at sculptures with 2000 other people in the British Museum.
If you’re enjoying it while not hurting anyone else, it’s fine. You’re living. Have a freaking blast. Stop taking travel so damned seriously.
So if you see me at TBEX, come say “hi.” I’ll be the one wearing the Statue of Liberty foam hat.