A fellow traveling friend recently asked me how my experiences visiting new towns and cities have changed since I first set off on the road nine months ago. Does the excitement of seeing a new place still compel me to, “go, go, go” and explore every crevice, monument, and tourist sight possible? Or do I take it slow, spending a day or two in my guesthouse or hotel relaxing?
It didn’t take me long to answer his question. I have thought about this many times before and I have found that the longer I’ve been on my travels the less of a tourist I’ve become. I’ve found myself spending hours, sometimes days, indoors, on the porch, or in a restaurant reading, writing, painting and skipping popular tourist destinations altogether.
This is a topic I have talked about with other travelers before, and it seems to be on many nomads’ minds. What’s more important, quality or quantity? Should we feel guilty for not exploring everything we can of a new place? We travel in order to see, explore, and experience new things after all, shouldn’t I get off of my computer and do exactly that?
What I love most about travel is that it is a reflection of our journey through life itself. While caught up in the mundane tasks of everyday modern living, we often forget to see the whole picture of where we are. Our lives are relatively short on this earth and we shouldn’t take our days and hours for granted.
Living and being completely in a moment is exactly how we avoid wasting our lives away. If the hectic worries of catching a bus at noon or seeing x number of sites before evening is getting in the way of actually being wholly in a moment, then we should take a step back for a second and let go. If we’re burying our nose in maps and guide books and treating a place like Disneyland, then perhaps we’re missing the point of travel. We’ve got to take time to breathe, look around us, and reflect on the moment. If we’re too preoccupied on sticking to a schedule and our minds are filled with fears of missing out, we often are missing out.
The mirror of travel has shown me that, just like in life, I can’t do and see everything; it’s not humanly possible. But it has also shown me that life and experience is all there for the taking; I simply have to learn to close my laptop sometimes and walk out the door. As the hectic rush and worry of, “go, go, go” can take away from living in the moment, hiding away in a rented room for days can do the same. There is no Lonely Planet book to answer my friend’s questions on when it’s right to sit, and when it’s right to go. The pace we choose to travel and live our lives is a personal thing which can change from day-to-day. The important thing to remember is that quality, not just quantity, is most rewarding.