In Hindsight : Travelling

June 25, 2015

A year ago today I was getting ready to board my first flight. Not just my first flight overseas, my first flight EVER. I was heading to the motherland, England, to present at a body image conference for my PhD. So not only was I speaking in public (“Ew, no thanks!” is my brain’s knee-jerk reaction to that) but I had to fly for the first time to get there! But this post isn’t about my poor, jangled nerves. If you really want to read more about that, you can do so here (it’s also a frightening insight into the nuttiness that is my mind). This post is about reflecting back on that time, one year on.

I first thought about writing this post when I started penning (typing?) an email to a fellow bloggy friend, Laura (of Happy Pantry. If you’re not already following her, get on it.) Laura was leaving that week for her trip to Germany and had previously asked for my advice. I had already given her the really practical, motherly responses – “Get comfy walking shoes”, “Pack layers!”, “Get a good backpack” – when I thought “But wait! I have some other kind of slightly wanky advice to churn out!

And here it is: Be there. 100% there.

I think it is very easy for people to get caught up in going and doing things, the big, touristy things, while they’re travelling and not really realising how awesome it is that they’re in a DIFFERENT COUNTRY. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for doing and seeing the big things (that sounds wrong), and did that myself in England (helloooo Big Ben. Okay, now I’m just adding further fuel to that “sounds wrong” thing). This is what I call “active tourism”. And I think it’s very easy to slip into the pattern of running around frantically, thinking “Oh, we’ll go here and take a selfie in front of this thing because it’s really old and then we’ll rush off and catch a glimpse of this thing because it’s even older” and not fully appreciate the wonderful luxury of being able to set foot in a distant (or not so distant) land. It’s great fun (and important) to immerse yourself in a completely new culture for a while, try new foods, visit new places, see different people. But it’s also nice (and just as important) to take a moment to stop and smell the roses. Literally and/or figuratively.

In England, I managed to strike a healthy balance between the two approaches. I saw some truly amazing things but some of my most treasured memories are those moments where I stopped and thought “Holy shit. This. Is. Awesome. I can’t believe I’m here.” Riding a bus from Salisbury to Stonehenge. Wandering through Regents Park after dinner. Sitting on the train, listening to people’s different accents. Taking the time to stop and breathe in that different air put a whole new spin on the way I saw things while I was there.

Please note that I’m not saying visiting monuments, museums, castles, etc. isn’t the right way to travel – it definitely is – I’m simply saying that I think it forms a PART of how I prefer to travel. Please also keep in mind that I’ve only been overseas once in my entire life and may have just pulled this entire post out of my arse. I’m not expecting this to be a ground-breaking realisation for most people, but I feel like taking those moments helped me to appreciate my trip more and thought that was worth sharing!

Do you have any travelling tips you learnt in hindsight?

Jacquie

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6 Comments
    1. This is great, non-wanky advice! I went to England with my family when I was 14 and I feel so disconnected from the experience now because I just went from tourist attraction to tourist attraction with my family, vaguely thinking ‘wow, this is really old’ and then moving on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the experience, but I cannot wait to go back and actually open my eyes and immerse myself in being in a different country!

      1. Oh yay! I’m glad this made sense to someone else’s brain. I was a bit worried I wasn’t expressing myself properly. I hope you get to go back sometime soon! I’d love to go again because there were still moments where I got cranky or fed up about something little when, really, I should have just been so amazed and grateful that I was overseas. Thanks so much for commenting, Catherine! 🙂

      1. I think that’s the best way to look at life! Thanks so much for stopping past 🙂

    1. I’m with you Jacquie. I’m lucky enough to have done a lot of travel in my 30 (nearly 31) years and my favourite approach is to spend as long as possible in a country, to really get to know it, and not to feel the pressure to rush about seeing every monument and taking a billion selfies. What’s the point? If you’d prefer to spend a day doing crochet on a park bench in Hyde Park instead of going to see Buckingham Palace, you should totes do that and not feel guilty for it!

      Also, I reckon people are 99% friendly and kind at heart. My general approach is to trust people you meet on you travels, ask them questions about themselves (in their own language if possible), and that way you’ll have a much richer experience.

      And take Gel-San because some countries don’t have soap in the loos 🙂

      1. Precisely, Isabel. I’m so glad my post made sense. I was a little worried I wasn’t expressing myself clearly but it seems to have come out okay. I like your point about talking to people. I’ll admit I was quite hesitant to do that, even in England where we all spoke the same language! I think it being my first trip overseas made me a little wary but I certainly have a (probably romanticised) idea in my head of one day going to Germany and being able to converse at least somewhat clearly with the locals.

        And lol about the Gel-San. A very important tip.

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