The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see. ~G.K. Chesterton
27.07.2011 24 °C
In many respects, life was easier when I was a student. To start with, although I was working hard alongside studies to finance my way through university, I kept summer breaks free to hitchhike around Europe. And then there was the modest budget. For some this could have been a drawback, but for me, it was an integral contributor to my experiences being authentic, memorable and unique. There are only so many ways one can make a room in a four star hotel unforgettable, but compare this to a stay in youth hostel with a bunch of like-minded people exchanging stories, planning next steps or just playing drinking games, and you have a completely different ballgame.
My memories from these travels are still clearer than from some trips I have done since, with more pocket money and more inhibitions about how to make my way around. The key differentiating factor was the people I met. When hitchhiking, more often than not I met ex-hitchhikers with great stories to tell or friendly locals with invaluable tips about some hidden gems we would have otherwise missed. Very often they would even offer to take us there, giving us a lesson in history, geography or biology on the way. Only because of these people, was I able to try on a 150 years old kilt in Scotland, play (well, attempt to play is perhaps more accurate) equally old bagpipes, part-take in a traditional Sami moose meat dinner in Sweden, or camp by a waterfall in Norwegian fjord, after being tipped off by a friendly farmer.
It is not possible to recreate the same experiences and nor would I want to. But what I do want is to create opportunities for new experiences of the same calibre. Our better financial standing and slightly aged birth certificate should not be a hindrance but an asset. An asset to get a variety of equally deep and unforgettable experiences, through increased flexibility to experiment and try new things.
The Duke and I had a number of discussions about how we should make our way around during the big world travels, what type of places we should stay in and what are the must-do things in the locations we agree upon. Initially I tried to use my powers of persuasion and enlighten him about ‘my’ way of travel. Minus the hitchhiking as unfortunately the World has changed a bit since I last did it ten years ago, plus I am not sure there are many who would jump at the opportunity to give a lift to an unshaven 190cm tall German with a backpack the size of an average human body. But the more we discussed this, the clearer it became that our differences in the way we like to travel are to our advantage. Why not to take a bus with the locals in rural China or check into a youth hostel in Thailand for a few days, sharing experiences and tips with other travel enthusiasts, before having a luxury break in a nice hotel in Hong Kong to recuperate? Exactly – no reason why not.
I agree with a reasonable amount of planning before departure but too much planning can lead one to miss out. In reality, The Duke and I will probably buy a couple of air tickets, sort out a visa for our first few destinations, book a hotel for first few nights and take it from there. I am getting the travel jitters just writing about this…
One of these days we will tell you about the places we want to see during our big trip. But before we do that, we are planning a number of short breaks and a longer-ish holiday in California over the next couple of months so stay tuned.