Strange travel approaches

Posted on October 26th, 2015 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Perhaps it’s because I live in Australia, a continent far from many other places. Or perhaps it’s the same the world over, but I just haven’t experienced it.

What am I talking about? Well, it seems to me that many Australians travelling to distant lands do so in a really strange way.

There seems to be a few different modus operandi.

One approach, seemingly confined mostly to young people, is to back-pack or party-bus around Europe, or the US, or – more rarely – South East Asia. The common aspect is that the tour comprises a succession of bars and other night-spots, and the main game seems to be to meet people. The exotic locations are just stage sets seen in the background.

When asked what they saw in these countries, the replies are invariably about the people they met and the good times they had.

(I wonder why they bothered travelling far at all; they could have just as easily done it all at home.)

Another approach, more the inclination of older people, is to go on tours. Invariably, these people see many sights that are of no apparent interest to them. This is most easily demonstrated by the fact that, here at home, they’d never go and see anything of a similar nature.

The mere fact that it is in another land, despite the lack of interest they have in it, appears to make it worthwhile to spend money in seeing.

When asked about these sights, they invariably can tell you nothing about them – not surprising, when they have no interest in them.

Yet another approach is to pick a famous city and then go and see it. New York or Berlin or London. I find this perhaps the strangest approach of them all.

“Oh it was fabulous”, they say, “New York!”.

I ask, “What was good, what did you see?”

“Oh but it was New York”, they exclaim, looking pityingly at me.

I’d rank that with getting excited at seeing a passing movie star in the street. WTF?

Our family choose to do things very differently. Obviously we think the outcome is vastly superior to the above – but of course it depends on what you want to gain from your travels.

Firstly, we research the hell out of things that we could see. What man-made or natural features. What culture. And so on. (I once asked on a discussion group about good engineering and technical things to see in the US. The replies immediately asked: “Where in the US are you going?” I said: “Wherever the best things to see are!” Utter confusion followed – it was apparently unheard-of to pick the sights first.)

After we’ve come up with a lot of great specifics to visit, we organise an itinerary that incorporates these within the available timeline and funds.

We go on the trip. We see a huge number of fantastic things of great interest to us. Along the way, we experience the culture, the language, the people, the food, the ambience of the places we are visiting.

In my life it took me a long time before I travelled to distant places, primarily because I couldn’t believe how little of any real value other travellers got.

Example from traveller: “I just love Italy!”

Me (thinking of a specific like Pompeii): “What was good about it?”

Them: “It was just wonderful. We had glorious pizza at a darling little restaurant.”

Me (thinking): Who cares?

A friend of ours suggests that we don’t go on holidays – instead we go on study tours. That may be right, but it seems to me we then get all the intangibles that others believe to be the essence of overseas travel, but we also get to see wondrous specifics, things that have changed my whole appreciation of life…

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