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Make that travel an experience in your way

June 2, 2011

Travel can force you into the moment, so when you’re exploring a souk in Damascus, celebrating carnival in Rio or riding a horse on the Mongolian hills, there’s an experience and a thrill in being exactly where you are and allowing things to happen. Today’s age of permanently-connected to the virtual world, one can be easily distracted and not throw themselves one hundred percent in the thrill of that single place or a single moment.

You would not check your Facebook feed or bank accounts while exploring Machu Picchu in Peru or experiencing the sounds of Klapa music in Croatia, would you? Of course not. When you travel, you get to embrace the privilege of witnessing life as it happens before your eyes. This attitude need not be confined to travel.

As a fellow traveler said to me:

For all the pleasures and entertainments of the virtual-electronic world, there is no substitute for real-life conversation and connection, for getting ideas and entertainment from the people and places around you. Even at home, there are sublime rewards to be had for unplugging from online distractions and embracing the world before your eyes.

As opposed to a short vacation, a long-term travel has the advantages to allow you to slow down and let things happen. With a loose itinerary, you begin to see the kinds of things and meet the kinds of people that most tourists overlook in their haste to tick attractions off a list.

All too often, life at home is predicated on an irrational compulsion for speed – we rush to work, we rush through meals, we “multi-task” when we’re hanging out with friends. This might make our lives feel more streamlined in a certain abstracted sense, but it doesn’t make our lives happier or more fulfilling. Unless you learn to pace and savor your daily experiences you’ll be cheating your days out of small moments of leisure, discovery and joy.

Sometimes, you feel that you are letting down the standards of travel. You don’t see enough must-sees, you kick yourself for lazing around, you don’t engage with stangers as much as you wish you did, you move on faster than the guidebook says you should. Let go of the remorse. There’s no point in trying to keep up with the backpackers. They are not you.

People have different tastes and one should realize and accept that. While you may love to kick back and put your feet up to read a novel, your friend may want to do that hike up the hill and attend a choir in the church. This does not make you any less a traveler. Enjoy the moments on the road the way you like them, not the way some perfect traveler does or some travel guide would want you to do.

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