Travel is something so engrained in my being and in my soul that I spend a good chunk of my free time staring at virtual maps, learning country capitals, stating at google pictures of local or unique dishes, and deciding if my next venture will be to a cold or warm climate. Two weeks ago, my husband I began our 3-week long honeymoon in the city of Tokyo, before heading off for some much-needed R&R in the Philippines. While an intrinsically organized person, my travel philosophy is much in keeping with my mentality on life: no rules, no lists, no tourist-ridden spots.
While venturing to this incredible little series of antique streets, buried deep within a touristy, pamphlet-distributing, hard-core-techno-clubbing part of town (not actually important, but the energy of the outer area shifted my mood so greatly that my neck actually got red while walking through it) we stumbled upon a group of women standing at the front of what appeared to be a long line, deep within another back-alley. These women asked us if we were here to try “the best ramen ever”. My husband and I said something along the lines of, “Uhhhh, sure! We love stumbling upon little hole-in-the-wall, local spots. Is it a good place?” Her answer: “YOU DIDN’T READ THE LONELY PLANET GUIDE? This ramen place comes highly recommended by expert tasters who have traveled here.”
Understanding a cities’ subway systems and knowing the local dishes, local languages and local hang-out spots while traveling, are all of equal importance to me. And, I always map my travel spots based on days, important neighbourhoods and the foods I want to try, but I NEVER make hour-by-hour agendas, and I never visit the “top 10 things to see while..”, or read the guide books that recommend those aforementioned spots. The joy in travel, for me, that is, is wandering, exploring, learning, embracing and becoming as close to a local as I possibly can, and I recommend this philosophy to everyone who travels, near or far. The fleeting joy in becoming “one of them” for a week-long stretch and then hopping back onto a plane and returning to my place of residence, all-the-while having done and tasted and seen what is interesting or tasty or visually stimulating to me, all that stays in keeping with Becca, is a feeling I can’t really describe. We may leave our homes, but we never leave ourselves, and traveling should be no different.
My parents took my brother and I several times a year to go and see the world. The pleasure and the privilege is not lost on me. If she could, my mother would spend all of her free-time in museums, both on trips and in her daily routine. My dad, however, lands in a foreign city and wanders from dusk till dawn, quickly adhering to the customs and the language, and making non-planned memories, both food and otherwise along the way. While much more resemblant of my father in the travel-regard, I respect my mother for staying true to her love of art and her love of foreign museums, despite my not wanting to partake in any of that. Insatiable to see-it-all from the eyes of the locals, my dad would never allow us to make plans on trips; we would explore each city, village, or sea-side town as if there was never a guide book printed.
On a family trip to Switzerland one summer, my dad tossed my mom’s guide book in the garbage and said, “let’s get in the car and drive”. We did. We drove to castles and lakes, mountains and beer factories, and saw jails, statues and many-a-pastry along the way. We even ate Gruyere crepes overlooking a mountainous hill in Gruyere, Switzerland. It was unplanned. It was magical.
I hope by now that you all know my motto- be yourself, push yourself. Traveling should be no different: if you like art, spend your time in museums. If you like the country-side, rent a car and just for hours. Ignore the forums, don’t read the reviews, and definitely don’t take those headphone-driven tours if you want to truly construct your own experience. Buy your ticket and see the world through the eyes of the residents, for their favourite and personal sites will surely not disappoint.