Slowing right down. Taking it all in instead of rushing around. Staying longer and relaxing.
Remember when you could travel and you weren’t connected 24/7? When you had to fumble through awkward language barriers because Google translate didn’t exist yet. When you needed a real map instead of your phone. When your phone wouldn’t work, not because it was expensive to operate while abroad, but simply because it wouldn’t work overseas.
When you’d wander around, not for Instagram shots, but to just feel the life breathing around you, the lives lived and lost inside and out of the walls surrounding you.
Remember when travel was more than just the 2,688,098 things you could see for free? When it was more than one-upping the faceless persons on the internet? When it didn’t matter if you saw the tourist attractions because you’d also find some gems, too, simply because you’d get lost on your way to seeing said tourist attractions. You’d stumble, and fumble, and fall right into that adorable cafe, or enchanting park. You’d explore a new neighborhood, taking your time because, well, you didn’t know where the fuck you were.
You didn’t worry about trying to have the most authentic trip you could, because you were already doing that. Yeah, you might have had a tour guide or two, and yeah, you might be seeing a lot of touristy stuff and paying quadruple, but you weren’t worried about that because you were exploring a new world to you.
I remember when staying in apartments was weird. I loved it. Loved it because it was cheaper than hotels. Loved it because I generally enjoy grocery shopping, and even more in a foreign country. Traipsing off to the markets to buy food I wouldn’t be able to at home, to peruse the snack section at a grocery store, to happily tuck a bottle of wine from the little corner store down from your apartment is what traveling is about. At least, for me it is.
But, just like everything that becomes too mainstream, it comes with a price. No longer is it exciting and fun to fall into new places and new experiences. It’s demanded of you. Why aren’t you staying in an apartment? Hotels, and their concierge services, are the scum of the Earth. Why would you ever pay a tour guide to bring you around a city? A cab? You must be joking…only true travellers walk everywhere. Why wouldn’t you live in a van and travel for a year? Everyone and their kids are doing it. You must, too! It’s authentic, don’t you know.
I’ve definitely given a few of these tips out myself. The finding the hidden gems (although my advice is always just walk and explore and hang out, letting the city/town soak into you). Staying in an apartment. Nixing some tourist attractions. My ways of thinking has changed over the years, evolving with the giant tourism boom. I’m more worried about the environment, about the people who actually live in these places, about the stress I’m now feeling trying to have the perfect instagram-worthy vacation.
Honestly, it’s more in my self interest to change the way that I travel, that everyone travels. I’ve always been an advocate for doing what you want on a trip. Yes, staying in an apartment can be immensely better than a hotel. But, sometimes hotels are infinitely better. See: spa packages and as many pillows as you wish. Yes, it’s amazing that people are seeing more of the world, but have you seen the damn line-ups, recently? Not my cup of tea. It feels like all of the quiet haunts I used to love are now overcrowded as more and more people find them and tell everyone to go there. Simply for a like or two. It’s why I’ll often keep beautiful, quiet places to myself. Or, I’ll tell a friend who is visiting to check it out, but I won’t blast it over the internet. There’s something about keeping that hidden gem…hidden.
I highly doubt we will be traveling this year, and if we are, it will only be in our country. I won’t be stepping on a plane until things calm way down. I won’t feel comfortable, so why waste the money? I’ve gone back and forth over whether or not I like that I’m not traveling. Sometimes, I can’t wait to get out there and my hand starts inching closer to booking a vacation. But, I’m trying to tamp that feeling down. I don’t want to go on vacation just to go. I want to go because I miss the streets of Paris, because I want to relax on the beach and explore the rainforest, because I want to see and immerse myself in everything the country I’ve chosen for the next 3-4 weeks has to offer.
I’ve written about this before. Before the pandemic. At the start of the pandemic. Because our worlds were tipped upside down. I had enough of traveling, of being in an airport for hours upon hours. Of jet lag. Of overcrowded streets. I wanted to explore my own country, and that’s still true, but with a break in travel, I’m still reaching for more foreign pastures. And, that’s okay. Next time I go I’ll try to unplug, try to bring myself back to the way it used to be. When traveling meant figuring it out on your own, and finding a little bit of yourself along the way.