“Travel doesn’t become adventure until you leave yourself behind.”
It’s a nice quote. But how true is it? And what does leaving yourself behind even mean? With our increasingly global economy and the exponential advancement of technology, cultural borders are becoming less defined than ever.
It’s entirely possible to hop on an airplane and travel halfway around the globe, only to wind up in a setting that feels pretty much like home. You leave the US and travel to Bangkok, only to find that everyone is still on a smart phone, cars are everywhere, and public transportation is faster and more efficient than it is in Boston.
So then, how do we leave ourselves behind while traveling?
Do we have to hack our way into the jungle, and spend months living in a mud hut with no electricity or water? Do we have to jump off really high things and wrestle alligators with no armor and drive motorcycles really fast, searching for that adrenaline rush that we so often associate with travel? Do we have to eat at that restaurant that only the locals know about, where they don’t serve anything that isn’t still alive, and there’s no menu, and you cook the food yourself?
It can be exhausting, searching for that unique experience while traveling. We can become so preoccupied with finding something different, something to photograph and post on our blog and make all of our friends back home jealous about, that we miss what is right in front of us.
Because sometimes the simplest moments are the most defining elements of a trip abroad. Sometimes just wandering around a new city people watching can be more enlightening than the most well thought out, “off the beaten path” expedition into the wilderness. It gets stressful trying to cram every last destination and sight into a trip. We constantly worry if we missed something. Our friend at the bar tells us “you have to see x, x and x. Seriously man, only the locals know about it, it’s awesome. Just hop on the #6 bus and then take a mule to this dirt road, and follow that until you see a medium sized birch tree, and you’ll see a path on your right that takes you 3 miles into the woods, and I swear man, it’s the best waterfall you’ll EVER see.”
And that’s all well and good, and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t seek out adventures while traveling. My only advice is, don’t WORRY about it. Just go. Go somewhere new, and when you get there, you’ll figure out the rest. If you don’t see every single spot that Anthony Bourdain says is cool because “tourists don’t know about it”, it’s okay. You can have an incredibly meaningful experience just staying in one city and immersing yourself in everything that one place has to offer, rather than driving yourself crazy jumping all over the map trying to get to every last recommended destination. One of the best parts about teaching English abroad, is that it allows you to stay in a new location for an extended period of time. There’s no rush to see everything all at once, no pressure to pack a weeks worth of sightseeing into every day.
Travel means something different to everybody. Define it for yourself. Just get there, and the rest will take care of itself!