I was inspired to write this post after finishing Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel. After talking about the dangers of romanticizing travel, I thought it might be good to expand and ask travelers to examine why they travel.
Why do we travel? Museums and historical sites have no interest for me except as a backdrop; those who would claim undying fascination and appreciation for works without being artists or architects are probably forcibly trying to create culture in themselves. A traveling chemist might find himself excited over seeing a rare type of plant in the cracks of the sidewalk – anyone else would just lament the state of the place.
Why do I travel? Honestly, this one kind of stumps me. I love food, but I would never travel to a place only for that reason. It is one of the main attractions for me wherever I am, but it’s not my motivation. That being said, I don’t know my motivation. I guess the act of traveling itself; the getting away from the norm, seeing new sights, changing environments and being in the midst of an adventure is what draws me. There are also different things in each country that I find attractive. I’ve never really wanted to visit beachy tropical places because beaches don’t thrill me. I do want to go to Finland because they have a large felting culture and reindeer farms; both things that interest me. I want to visit Russia for the snow and tea, Korea for the food and language, Europe for the food and history. Africa and South America don’t have much of an interest for me, so those places aren’t top of my list.
So why do you travel? Is it merely for the travel, so any place will do, or all places? Is it a desire to see all the world, or specific things in the world?
Go to a place that has the highest concentration of what interests you. That may be scenery, in which case the food and cultural highlights take a back seat. If you love food, there are any number of places boasting fantastic and exotic cuisine; you have only to pick what style you like. If you love people, go where people are friendly and will invite strangers into their homes. If art, religion, music, books, learning, pop culture, or fashion is to your taste, let that dictate where you go, not the “Top Ten Best…” of travel sites and guidebooks. Those are one person’s, or worse, one committee’s, ideas of what everyone should like, and rarely suited to every individual. Toss the guidebooks and decide for yourself what places you like best. Read blogs or books dedicated to a specific locale, hobby, or area of interest to benefit from the experiences of others like you.
You don’t have to travel blind, but be wary of accepting a “standard” of good destinations.