It’s difficult to respond to the question of how we travel in a conventional sense, primarily because we believe that we could adapt to what ever form of travel presented itself. At least we used to be able to. Now, as middle-aged meanderers, and given the choice, there are a few more restrictions that we may implement. I remember the day we were backpacking along the east coast of Australia with Torin and his friend Steven, and we had to bypass the plush resort, opting instead for a 4 bed room in the local hostel. Mary looked at me and said that was it, if we didn’t have to stay in such a place, we wouldn’t. Given, this particular hostel was definitely on the rough side. We stayed in another hostel earlier that trip in Sydney that was as nice as most hotels we would stay in. All that to say that our standards have risen along with our age, but I still like to think that we could adapt if we had to.
We do however, have a set of principles that have emerged with our travels. They are:
Go slow. Enjoy where you’re at without the need to rush to the next big attraction on the checklist. We realize that it’s easier said when we have a longer period of time. But even with a relatively short trip, it’s still possible and is still a principle that we would strive for.
Tread lightly. This is a hard one when air travel is required to just get to the start point. But that aside, we would try to travel by bus, walk, or more recently, by cycling. Cycling is a great way to see a country if you have the time. This principle is also difficult to live up to as a consumer of goods, and not being in a position to buy in bulk or carry a lot with us. Water for example. We just can’t consume the water in some countries, so do we buy bottled water, bring a filter to pump water or use some other purification process. It isn’t easy.
Take the road less traveled. We do tend to avoid the “tourist trail” and the major attractions. That said, major attractions are major attractions because they are worth seeing. So a little give and take is required here too, but the point is that if you truly want to experience a country, its culture and its people, you need to get off the beaten track. Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes there is more of a risk of being uncomfortable, but ultimately for us it is so much more rewarding.
Learn always. Coming from the “west”, it’s easy for us to develop an “I know better” attitude, particularly when traveling in developing countries. But that isn’t a healthy attitude, nor will it allow you to fully experience everything a country has to offer. We must always be open to new experiences and be ready to learn from them. As I write this, I realize that this too is a difficult principle to live up to sometimes, and I can think of several instances where I’ve failed in this regard. But, like the rest of them, it’s a principle to strive for.
Have fun. Anyone that knows Mary, knows that this comes easy for her. For me, taking myself lightly in all or even most circumstances is a work in progress. But enjoying oneself in what ever circumstances one finds themselves in, not only makes those moments more memorable in a positive way, they always make for great stories afterwards.