I love to travel.
I love the feeling of being anonymous that traveling gives me. This is enhanced by the knowledge that for the duration of my trip I am not responsible for anybody but myself and my travel partner, that is usually my wife, the most amazing partner anyone can have . Even flying is fun. The minute I pass through the airport gates I become almost invisible. Nobody knows me and I am not responsible for anyone. I become the observer. What a heavenly feeling. I am there to learn and experience.
Travelling three tines!
I always say that I travel three times. Months before a trip I will start reading. I want to know everything about the place I am going too. the place I visit becomes familiar even if I have never been there before.
The next kind of traveling is being there. I need to see , taste, hear and experience everything. The third time I travel is on arriving home afterwards. Then I relive my visits in photo’s, memories and through my sketches and travel diaries. Now I start reading again. Often I re-read what ever I read before going, as being there gives one a totally different perception of the place. Very often I run into things and concepts I did not know before I left. This I need to explore on returning.
So what do I read up on before leaving? I usually start off with the history of the place. How did this nation come to be what and where they are and why. What are they now and what make them who they are. Lastly I want to know where they are going Their future is usually a political answer to which I unfortunately seldom give lots of time and dedication.
I also make sure I know where they are. The first page in my travel diary is then dedicated to a hand drawn map of the country with its neighbors. I need to see where they are in the bigger picture, to see the countries that surround them, sea’s and ports and the geography of the land. It tells me so much about the people living there and how the came to be.
On arriving in a new city.
First I need to orientate myself. I start with major sites or places. A river is a good start. Every city has its points of interest, that any local can direct you towards. Where do I live in relation to my travel beacons. This way it is easier not to get lost or to get disorientated. (Not that I have any problems with getting lost, I discovered the most amazing places in my life exactly because I got lost. But then you need to have enough time to enjoy being lost. This can not happen if you are only in a city for a few days.)
Do not be shy to talk to people. Often we try to understand a few rudimentary things about the language. I will not claim that I can speak or even understand the local language, but at least to be able to greet, to ask for the menu or the bill. If at least you tried, people will warm up to you and try to help you.
I love the concept of “slow living”. Especially when traveling. I need to experience with all my senses. I need to observe and see how these people live, what they eat and do. I want to smell the aromas in their markets and restaurants, taste the food, hear the language and the sounds in the square.
I am an urban sketcher on holiday. I will sit in front of a church or building and try to render it on paper. This slows down time. It makes you really see what is in front of you. Often if I go back to a drawing I can remember smells and sights and even the cool afternoon air or the morning sun on my back. More often than not somebody will come and stand behind you to see what you are doing and start to have a conversation with you as well.
If you can choose between visiting ten cities or one, always choose only one. I know when traveling I always think that I might never see this or that city, but if I van see one place properly, it is often so mush more rewarding than to travel 10 cities and just seeing them through a bus window. Every time you move to a new place you loose at least half a day to move and settle down in new accommodation.
Try not to move in packs. Groups of people are always complicated. There are more preferences you need to consider, more people you must wait for, transport becomes cumbersome and logistics becomes a pain.
Maybe even more important is to know what you see. I need knowledge about a place I visit. Otherwise it just becomes an ABC tour: Another bloody Cathedral, another bloody Castle, another bloody church. Knowledge makes each place memorable and special. The more knowledge, the more each place will stand out.
If traveling remember to be open to new experiences. Try to experience everything new. Eat the local food (never the MacDonalds). Never compare. Each place will be special in its own right. Don’t buy. Traveling is not about having, but about experiencing. Most souvenirs were made in China in any case, and will only have meaning for you.
Make your journey an adventure, and enjoy every minute!