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?