Despite many years of being an internet user, I am amazed at what has developed from the days of AOL and BBSs. One of the blog realms I have gotten into of late is termed minimalism or simple living. This has a lot of offer a traveler, even someone that doesn’t feel the need to put these practices into “daily life”. There will be more posts on the cross of travel and minimalism. Stay tuned. What I want to concentrate on today is one of the core tenants that I see across most of the minimalist blogs that I read.
“Find what is actually important to you and do it.”
Importance in Travel
Not the importance OF travel, but the idea of knowing what is important while traveling. This is quite a big deal when traveling by yourself, but becomes more critical when traveling with others. Travel should be enjoyable on the whole. Of course, not all of it is going to be rosy, but if you don’t at the end of a trip feel that it was worthwhile, what is the point? Knowing what is important to you when you travel is a key to making more trips feel worthwhile. These things may change, maybe even for just one trip. “This time I just want to lie on a beach and do nothing.”
I find there are two halves to knowing what is important.
- Knowing yourself and introspectively figuring out what you want to see and do and how you want to travel.
- Remembering what you did that you enjoyed.
One of the wonderful magical things of travel is that it provides both of these itself. If you need time to think about what is important, I find an 8 hour train ride to be an ideal time to think. If you want opinions from others of what they find important (the external version of introspection if you will), travelers love nothing more than telling stories. In both of these situations, you pick the things that resonate with you mentally AND TRY THEM. Someone tell you about a white water rafting trip in Switzerland and it piqued your interest. Figure out how to go do it. You are reading a book about the fall of Rome, go there! This is the second half that rises up. Once you try these things, you can decide if you really like them or not. A couple of cycles of this should get you close to an idea of what is important to you.
I find I can go through a couple of cycles like this in a trip, often nested. Try backpacking Sweden for a week. Drink with a bunch of guys you just met in a train club car. Just wander through a part of a city you’ve not seen. Each trip gives so many opportunities to try things and see if they fit in your list of what you travel for, what is important to you in traveling.
My (not exhaustive) List
- Meet people. This is my top one and the primary reason I travel. I like meeting new people and talking to them. I take trains because I meet people better. I stay in hostels to talk to roommates. I sit at the bar instead of a table to chat with bartenders about fantasy books. The first question I ask when planning a trip is “how will this let me meet people?”
- See how other people live. I am an amateur sociologist and cultural anthropologist. I like to see how cultures have developed and how other people live. I enjoy the new perspectives provided by seeing other cities and other ways of life. I sit in cafes and watch people walk and interact.
- See(and do) awesomely cool stuff. Yes, this is here too. There is a great feeling to stand in history (or to witness it). Or to see the most beautiful beach. This also provides stories to feed back into 1.
- Drink beer. There are other things important to me too, but this one I enjoy and ties into 1 and 2. Beer often makes friends and provides a frame for conversation. It is also tasty, and comparisons across countries is cool.
- Slowing down. I am here to enjoy myself and experience being somewhere. I have no interest in running to a different city to see another set of museums every day. It stresses me out and I don’t like it. Give me a single city for a week and a favorite cafe on a sunny square with a waitress who knows my name.
Call this my post on bias. This is what is important to me, so this is what I will likely write about. I expect others to have other lists and encourage them to. Everyone knowing what is important to them makes making decisions in where to go and who to be with simpler. There is no point going to an all inclusive beach resort when what you want is a city full of museums. This also helps when working in a group. Don’t let yourself get dragged around by the group mentality if you don’t enjoy it. Be true to what you find important and do it.
So what does your list look like?