When you are bored at work, is difficult not to ask yourself how to travel the world. I remember the first time I asked myself the same thing. It was a Monday morning and I was scrolling through a flight deal website, day dreaming of the endless possibilities. I imagined myself eating cake in front of the Eiffel Tower, dancing around the Shibuya Crossing, hiking to Machu Picchu and being a daredevil on the stairways to heaven. Yet, the question prevailed: how to travel the world?
How To Travel The World
Having travelled to various countries, experienced different cultures and tried multiple world dishes, I came to the conclusion that I've been asking myself the wrong question all along. How to travel the world is not the question but why travel the world is. Let's discuss. If you too are wondering how to start, I promise you the simplest solution is to figure out how much money you have in your bank account right now and travel to the first place that comes to mind and is within your budget. Buy a cheap flight somewhere, stay in a crappy apartment and eat noodles for the duration of your stay. Travelling doesn't have to be about luxurious business class, 5-star hotels and expensive meals... although trust me, I'd rather those too.
It's ok to be cheap and keep an open mind. Do you want to experience the local cultures? Well get out of your comfort zone and start a conversation with a resident. Want some local food? You won't get it in that Michelin restaurant, but in the cheap market around the corner from your crappy apartment. Yes, I'm serious! Travelling to me, is about learning, experiencing, getting out of my comfort zone. Travelling is about getting more skilled, more patient, more loving. So finding out how to travel is simple: pack up your bag and go. Why travel is the difficult question because it all varies from individual to individual. Ask yourself, why do you actually want to travel the world?
The Tourist vs Travellers Debate
Perhaps the debate which took over the internet in recent years has been the annoying "are a tourist or a traveller"? A pointless question to a more complicated explanation than you can imagine. So let's go back in time a little. You grandparents and parents are either Baby boomers or / and Generation X.
You, very likely are a Millennial. Your predecessors grow up in a post-world war society. They learned from their parents that material items are incredibly important. Look around your grandparent's house. Very likely, they hold on to everything! Even old matches. Even those old gross shoes you hate. Everything! Your parents are a bit more chilled about material items because they are, by now, accustomed with capitalism and they understand how it works. They are happy to replace the fridge, repaint the room and spoil themselves on a luxury holiday abroad.
Back in the days, people didn't use to travel as much, because firstly, the war made it pretty damn difficult to do so, and secondly, most of the income was used to acquire more stuff and create a normal, decent existence. You can hardly blame them, given the serious lacks of produce during and immediately after the wars. If the older generation travelled, they went to see the "tourist attractions" because tourism was just about becoming a thing.
Imagine the scenario: you live in post-war England and you heard so much about this giant iron construction called the Eiffel Tower. You saw it in black and white pictures, you dreamt of seeing it and one day, you finally get the courage to travel to Paris. Travel is long, tedious, uncomfortable and very expensive. When you finally reach Paris, you look at the Eiffel Tower and ask a stranger to take a picture of you, in front of that attraction you dreamt all your life about. You grow up, you are now close to 70 and you tell your kids about this amazing trip of yours to the Eiffel Tower. Your kids, then embark on their adventure to see this...Eiffel Tower. But then the world changes, the internet becomes a thing, and your grandchildren can now see all their friends on Facebook in front of the Eiffel Tower. Suddenly, the Eiffel Tower becomes too touristy, boring and not that special, unless you too, want to have the same pictures on your Facebook feed, as your 1000+ friends which you never met in real life.
Moral of the story? The travelling condition changed over time. As a new traveller, it's natural that you wish to see the "main tourist attractions". As travelling becomes second nature for you, you learn to avoid the tourist traps and seek experiences which make you, different. Millenials and their travelling habits are changing (for the better) but it's worth remembering that you too, started as what you like to hypocritically call "a tourist".
In fact, I am what you call a tourist and a traveller combined. When I visit a new place, I reserve 2 full days for visiting and checking out all those tourist destinations. I would be foolish not to check out the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Pantheon in Rome or the Great Wall in China. It is important that I see everything for myself, admire these works of art and learn about our past. Furthermore, I reserve the rest of the days to just meander and insert myself into the local life. This way, I get to see the main attractions and also discover secret gems.
To twist the debate, even more, you have to remember one thing... you claim to be a traveller because you always seek off the beaten path destination and you couldn't care less about those tourist destinations, correct? But you document those off the beaten path destination. You write about that cute, secluded street you discovered in Paris. This gets shared on the internet and thousand of people then follow YOUR footsteps to those very "secrets" you uncovered. In essence, you too, are partaking in creating new tourist attractions. That expensive restaurant in the middle of Paris will now move its location closer to that secluded street because that's where all travellers go to visit, due to you, your pictures, your writings.
In conclusion, do you remember seeing that amazing place which the X blogger recommended because it has no tourists around? You just did what your grandmother did few dozen years ago when someone told her that the Eiffel Tower is the most amazing, special place on Earth. You too, in your own way, are nothing but a tourist which seeks a glorified name.
The world is an ever-changing place. Your every decision creates a chain of reactions, which in turn further changes the world. Off the beaten path destinations become tourist attractions, tourist attractions become off the beaten path destination. It's a vicious circle which has been going on since forever.
The Traveller Condition
According to Wikipedia: "The human condition is 'the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict, and mortality.'"
So what then, is the traveller condition? I believe that travelling Millenials started to interchange the human and traveller conditions. Millenials are moving away from hoarding objects, in favour of experiences tells CNBC which quotes a study by Harris Group stating that 72 percent of millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things. Sounds familiar? Ditch your house, your car and your shoes, pack a rucksack and start travelling the world. All in the name of seeking "something". The reason why I put "something" in quotes is because each individual has different needs, expectations and desires. At the end of the life-long travelling pilgrimage, one individual reached its own enlightenment state. My travelling is conditioned by my desire to learn. The more I travel, the more addicted I become to learning. I know a bit of Spanish and I can't stop myself from wanting to learn Italian. I learned how to make sushi and I can't wait to learn how to cook Korean food.
There is some science behind why Millenials want to feel as opposed to possessing. There are four major chemicals in the brain that influence our happiness (DOSE): Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins (Full article here). When you buy something new, you get your dose of dopamine. This can be a pair of new shoes, a new journal, or a train ticket somewhere new.
Travelling long term, however, has been associated with serotonin (the hormone who controls your greater mood), endorphins (which help you "power through" something and are associated with the fight-or-flight mechanic) and adrenaline (a stress hormone which prepared your body for fight-or-flight reactions in threatening environments). It is obvious that since experiences offer you a wider mix of chemical cocktail which can seriously push your psyche further, the newer generations learned to prefer it. This, alongside the financial means, the technological advances and world peace which the Millenials simply benefit from.
The traveller condition also comes with several expectations. Newer generations don't travel for the sake of seeing, but also to connect with others, seek freedom, understand oneself, learn new skills and "feel" more (which refers exactly to the chemical cocktail we were debating above).
How To Travel The World Freely
This is the jumbo cliche which I can't wait to share with you: let it go! No, I'm not singing the Frozen song but I'm encouraging you to just make your own decisions. LET IT GO! Travel the way you want, wherever you want, for as long as you want. Yeah, you got it. You know when they tell you that the best sex is selfish and selfless? Same goes for travelling. It's all about giving to the world whilst you get something in return. To know what you get in return, you have to figure out the golden question: "why travel the world"?
So here is my travelling manifesto: stop the nonsense, embark on a journey and screw the world. Do you care that what's his face millionaire tells you to stop travelling? You shouldn't. Do you care that your mother wants you to get an office job? It's your life, not hers. Upset that your friends stopped caring about your travel tales? Forget about them. The precious few will stick around.
It's absolutely fine to travel for a year, for the rest of your life or just for a weekend. It's also ok to travel with a backpack or bounce between luxurious hotels (I envy you and your trust fund!). It is not ok to criticise other travellers, make fun of them or say that their ways are lesser than yours. Because with time, you should know that travelling is about respect, acceptance and love. Ok, this is turning into a hippie go lucky article, but I'm serious. Celebrate differences and learn from one another as opposed to berating each other. Celebrate your grandmother in front of the Eiffel Tower, and the rest of the suppressed Chinese tourists which elbow you in front of the Pantheon.
Go Crazy, Have Sex, Raise Children, Travel Again
I strongly believe that the traveller condition teaches you the meaning of life. Although I would argue that we should have reached the same conclusion as to what the meaning of life really is, I'm sure you probably have a different opinion than mine. And that's ok unless you are ready to embark on a philosophical debate with me (go to my contact form and let's meet up half way around the world for a coffee). I want you to go out in the world, spread your wings and go crazy. Go crazy on food, local culture, movies, concerts. Find your own meaning. Find your husband your wife. Divorce. Or stay together for the rest of your days. Make memories. Have lots of sex and dance in the kitchen every morning. Raise children and if not your own, raise the children of the world with all your wits, experience and immense love. And when life hits hard, go travel again, better, longer and relentlessly.
And finally remember, life is nothing but a travelling journey in itself. Whether you travel from A to B or you time travel from 2017 to 2055, your life is a mere endless travelling adventure. Your human condition is the traveller condition. Your traveller condition should teach you that you are both a traveller and a tourist, a participant and an observer. You are everything. Make it count.