1. Traveller’s Ignorance
If there is one thing I cannot stand, is the culturally insensitive behaviour of certain type of tourists. With attractive all-inclusive packages deals, and ‘soul searching’ travel becoming a popular trend, travelling has brought a variety of travellers to the map. While many tourists show a sense of curiosity and a genuine desire to experience, many others dehumanize the local population by ignoring their histories and cultures, and being provocative, demeaning and narrow-minded. Tourism can be disruptive and using an ethnocentric behaviour is only going to enhance the bad reputation tourists already have, and affect the local people.
2. Knowing You Can’t Save the World
Travelling to developing countries has its harsh realities: the crowds, the heat, the poverty, the pollution, the homeless orphans, the injured beggars, the pack of angry and territorial stray dogs, the cruelty towards animals, … ugh. It is heartbreaking to see how life can be so unfair. We are all living creatures and deserve all the best, at least a shelter, food and water and health. I feel helpless and hopeless at times, and all I want is to save them all from their daily struggles. If I ever win the lottery I want to open a center against violence on women, a learning center for children, a hospital for sick people, a shelter for stray dogs, a rehabilitation center for donkeys, … I’d need to win a lot of lotteries…
I can’t save the world, but I can do as much as I can. Giving your time is a first step. While in Morocco working with children and women, I felt so powerless. However, I understood that to simply be present and interested, and compassionately involved into these people’s lives, was enough to make them smile. It wasn’t a lot, but it felt right.
Travelling hasn’t changed the world, but it definitely changed me. I have a greater appreciation for the things I have and am grateful for the life I live.
3. American Food Chains
I have to admit: I entered a McDonald’s in India and ordered a “burger”. It was uniquely by curiosity, to see how a company whose signature product is the beef burger, penetrated a country that doesn’t eat beef or pork. Chicken was a popular item on the menu. I chose the Tikki Burger, a vegetarian option, like many others, made of potatoes, peas and Indian spices. I hate to say how impressed I was with the result.
But my point here is that if you plan on travelling abroad, make the effort to taste the local dishes. Help the residents by buying locally. Sampling exotic food not only gives you an unique understanding of the area’s culture, but will also tremendously enrich your travel experience. Plus, most likely they will have the freshest produce and the cheapest price. And really, probably the best food you’ve ever tasted!
I am the biggest fan of street stalls and hidden restaurants (of course select wisely and have a certain level of cautiousness). My adventurous culinary experiences abroad left me with great stories to tell, like the time I ate yak-tongue momos in Tibet, or burnt my tongue with indian spices in India, or ate chicken butt-holes in Thailand. Did I ever get food poisoning? Yes, once, here in Canada.
Eat locally and adventure yourself in the cuisines of the world!
4. The People to Miss
You’ll meet people from all around the world. People with the same interests, same philosophies. People with a thirst for life that people at home don’t necessarily understand. You connect with great souls, ambitious and unique personalities. You travel intensively together, do amazing activities, see extraordinary things, live exhilarating moments… And then they’re gone. And you don’t know when, or if you’ll ever see them again. You’ll chat online once in a while, while your spirit wanders through memories and nostalgia. You wish you can be back on that sketchy train ride, on that mountain you sweated each step to climb, or on the beach gazing at the starry sky reflecting on life, just to be with them.
So many people have touched my heart, and I think about them often. I hope to see them again, somewhere around the globe. But I have to be realistic: sometimes goodbyes are really forever.
5. Insatiable Wanderlust, and Never Completely Feel at Home
You come home from travelling and everyone is exciting to hear about all your stories. But those moments fade away rapidly, and then everything is back to where they were before you left. You might feel lost and lonely because no one really understands what happened to you abroad. So you want to leave again and be back in those places that inspired you, with those people who have lighted the flame within you.
Home can be anything from a place, a person, a job, or anything. In order to put an anchor and plant roots, you need to know what it is that you want. People say travelling is the best way to find yourself, but sometimes it is a way to get lost. Since you meet so many inspiring people, discover so many amazing places, try so many extraordinary things, it can become overwhelming choosing what is it you really want. You tend to want everything and you can’t choose from one or another. Because you felt how hard your heart beat, and you want it to forever be that alive.
So you will keep moving, crossing roads, climbing mountains, swimming oceans until you find what it is that you are looking for.
Photos taken from the Internet.