Introduction To Travel Philosophy

When it comes to travel, clichés abound. I’m not going to repeat them here, but suffice to say they all have one thing in common: they reflect their originator’s travel philosophy. What I mean by the term travel philosophy is the mindset, or attitude of the traveler—an abstract, ethereal concept that is far deeper than the act of simply moving from one place to another.  A business person may travel around the globe, visiting city after city, but that has very little to do with a mindset. They travel because they have to, and the act, while necessary, is no more remarkable than your average commuter that day in and day out travels to a city that they never get to enjoy. Yes, what I ‘m speaking of is the deliberate act of traveling to acquire an experience: seeing new things with one’s own eyes and gaining the subtle nuances of firsthand exposure that cannot be successfully transmitted by any form of description.

It is with this definition in mind that I introduce the subject here on my blog. I do so because without establishing the WHY, the WHERE and HOW are diminished, and essentially without context. So here is a few basic tenets of my own travel philosophy, and perhaps they just might coincide with some of yours.

1) Travel To Experience Something New

Driving on the left, from the right side of the car
Driving on the left, from the right side of the car

If I wanted everything to be just as it is at home, I would never have left. Travel exposes a person to different ways of doing things—some better, some not—but nine times out of ten it simply comes down to being different. Whether driving on the left side of the road in New Zealand & South Africa, taking a nap in the middle of the day in rural parts of the Mediterranean, or the traffic free-for-all of India, these variations on a theme (namely: what you’re used to) enrich a person’s life for the better—if only to help one appreciate what they have.

2) People Are People

Disembarking along the Yangtze
Disembarking along the Yangtze

On a Yangtze River cruise I was introduced to this important fact. Our tour group was taken to a school in Wanzhou, China where children were instructed in Chinese acrobatics. While being seated for the performance, my father and I were separated from our group and sat down among the local farmers. As these kids flipped, twirled and balanced enormous vases on their noses, what struck me the most was the reaction of the audience. We all gasped at the same parts. We all expressed sounds of admiration at impressive feats. We all laughed and applauded at the same things. That’s when it truly struck me on a level that I’ve always known but never clearly saw until that moment. We are all the same. We all want the same things. We all have the same hopes and fears. (Don’t worry, I won’t break out into “It’s A Small World”). There is no reason to hate people of other races or nationalities because people are people—even if they’re in China.

3) Sense of Place

The Loud & Traffic-filled streets of India
The Loud & Traffic-filled streets of India

To me, it’s not just being able to have another stamp in my passport and add another pin to my wall map that inspires me to travel (though I do enjoy those things). For me it is being able to comprehend what a given location is like—or sense of place—that brings me great satisfaction. As a kid I used to watch Met games in my parents’ bedroom and spin my dad’s globe to see where my finger would land. Not only did I learn a good deal about geography, but it also led me to wonder what these places with such exotic-sounding names were really like. Once I became of age to travel about the globe freely, I took great pleasure in transforming these names on a map to a real image in my head. I no longer see them as just labels with vague images to go along with them.

I no longer see: ‘Italy’, but I relive the musty smell that permeates the old buildings. I smell the fresh basil in the terraced gardens. I feel the pebbles under my feet as I stand knee-deep in clear water. Similarly, I can no longer see a map of India without hearing the incessant beeping of horns, smell the smoky smell that is everywhere and the resulting haze that makes all structures on the horizon appear as if seen through gauze. That’s a sense of place, and that’s what I am always looking for.

In summary, these are just a few of my basic philosophies as to why I travel. I will add more in the times to come. But for now I’d love to hear your own thoughts on what moves you to travel—not just move from one place to another. Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Miles

One of the most frequent questions I get asked when people peruse my travel photos is: “What made you go there?” followed by the inevitable: “How did you even hear about that place?” The response is the same for both: “I saw it in a picture.”

Yes, just as the beauty of Helen of Troy launched a thousand ships, so too a few travel photographs have sent me on a chase of many more than a thousand miles, just to witness the scenes depicted in person. My earliest recollection of this was an old book my parents had on a shelf in the crude entertainment center my dad built on his own when I was still a young boy. In it was the iconic scene of Machu Picchu, and I knew then and there I wanted to see it for myself. (I made the attempt to do so back in 2010 but was denied due to mudslides, so that goal is still pending).

Is it a sign of weakness that my mind (and wallet) are so open to suggestion? Perhaps. But there’s no doubt I have consistently had my expectations either matched or surpassed when I finally got to see the real thing. Below are just a few examples.

 

The Meteora, Greece

The Meteora, Kalambaka, Greece
The Meteora, Kalambaka, Greece

The first time I saw the image of ancient monasteries dwarfed by enormous pillars of stone, I thought I was looking at a scene from a video game (specifically something out of MYST). When I found myself in the general neighborhood of Greece I made visiting this otherworldly setting a priority and was thrilled when I was able to add hundreds of inspirational pictures to my own collection.

Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme Open Air Museum, Goreme, Turkey
Goreme Open Air Museum, Goreme, Turkey

This surreal landscape captivated me at first glance. I mean, where else can you wander entire villages of sculpted rock right out of a Dr. Seuss book? Add to that the opportunity to stay in an authentic cave hotel (the coolest thing ever, btw) and I knew that despite being literally in the middle of nowhere (well, Turkey actually) it was worth the effort. My photo album is in complete agreement.

Jodhpur, India

Image
Partial view of the Blue City

 

While India had always been a dream destination of mine, nothing stoked my wanderlust quite as much as a picture of Jodhpur, The Blue City as seen from the imposing Mehrangar Fort. Other than the intriguing color, the warren of flat houses, alleyways & staircases seemed a real-life M.C. Escher drawing. Considering its use as a setting in the Dark Knight Rises installment of the Batman series, apparently I’m not the only one to consider it as worth the trip.

Parati, Brazil

Sunset over the Historic Center, Parati, Brazil
Sunset over the Historic Center, Parati, Brazil

It was in a book of travel photography that I first caught sight of the cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses of Parati. Having always wanted to go to Brazil anyway, I not only included it in my itinerary but also decided to spend the bulk of my time there. Sure, I had read up on all its fine attractions, charming pousadas and artistic vibe, but it was those first pictures that made me say “I have to go there” and made me feel so very glad that I did. In fact, very shortly I will be posting about what a marvelous place it is.

These are just a few examples but by now I’m sure you get the point. So the tip is: If you’re lacking in inspiration or have always taken the road most traveled, do yourself a favor and go down to your local library, take out a book on a destination that intrigues you, and flip through the pictures (or alternately, view my photo gallery.) Inspiration is never far away so long as there are pictures, and so long as there are pictures, there will always be a reason to travel.