Suggestion 1 – How to Travel far from the ‘Madding Crowd’

I’m been thinking a lot about different ways to travel – and I have some suggestions on how to make your travel experiences different (if you want it that way) – so head’s up These suggestions are coming your way.

Suggestion #1 – Pick an interesting place to go!

In other words – Get out of your comfort zone.

I once attended a lecture on Eco-Travel – and the speaker suggested that there are 3 ways to travel – The Accidental Tourist, The Eco-Traveler, and The Adventure Traveler.

To his mind – the Accidental Tourist wants home in some other place. Same pillows, same bed, same AC, same food – just a different local. Not my way of travelling of course, but I admit to a touch of envy of those to whom this method works. It’s so easy! Cruise Ships are the ideal for this of course – one room that is yours for the entire trip, a different place to quickly check out each day – but no fear. Nothing really surprising is going to happen – well, maybe the restaurant on board you want that night is booked – but nothing truly annoying.

The Adventure traveller is also not quite ‘me’ anymore. I’m too old to take serious chances – I’m not going to climb Everest, I’m not likely to want to kayak up the Amazon, and I’m certainly not going to sleep on the ground if I can help it. Nope – I draw the line at not having my own toilet. The days of climbing ladders in the middle of the night to go to the oh so public bathroom are behind me – I’m a fan of ending the day in a place I can call my own. But again – I envy those who are willing and able to do serious adventure travel – 24 hours on a train in 3rd class sounded like a lot of fun when I was 55 – but it’s not going to work now that I’m 66. Nope – train travel, while huge fun, is no longer on my bucket list.

Which of course leaves the 3rd option – Eco-Travel. Going off the beaten route a bit – for longer – but not crazy. I chatted yesterday with a gal who hated Bali. She had taken a cruise ship that included Bali – and spent 5 hours on the island. Long enough to find out that the main city is just a big main city – and not nearly enough time to experience any of the magnificent culture, see any of the real rain forest (it’s about 4 hours inland from the port – trust me – she didn’t get there), nor even enough time to decently visit a museum or eat a good meal. 5 hours on an island isn’t even enough time to walk past the touristy shops that clog the area near the port. I don’t blame her for not loving Bali – but I do think she should have realized that the issue isn’t Bali – it’s the result of being an Accidental Tourist!

Ok – so where to go, and how long to stay. The 2nd question is the easiest to answer – as long as possible of course. But I’m guessing like me, my readers have lives outside of travel – and there’s a limit to what you can and can not do. So my suggestion – a week is a bare minimum. If there’s a guide-book to your destination that’s thicker than a 1/2″ – you are going to need a week. If the guide-book runs over an inch in thickness – 2 to 3 weeks is a much better plan.

The guide-book for Bali was about 3/4 of an inch thick – but the culture was so unique and wonderful that 3 weeks was really cutting it short.

So – optimum – 1 week to 3 weeks if work schedule allows. Per city. Not per trip. Don’t try to see a city in a day. Impossible to meet anyone in under a day – isn’t going to happen. And it’s meeting people who live where you are the tourist that makes fun stuff happen!

Now – as to the where… Ah – the Where. My next trip is to 3 cities – none of which are on the ‘unusual’ list – but all 3 of which offer tons of things to see and to do. I’m going to Berlin for a week, St. Petersburg, Russia for 3 weeks, and then Brussels for a week. Not as adventuresome as Bali perhaps – but giving these 3 cities enough time will, I hope, result in interesting experiences.

Time will tell

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Are you a Tourist, a Visitor, or a Traveller?

At Kim’s House in Busan, South Korea, the Intrepid Traveller and I met up with Alfonso – a young (36) Doctor from Spain who asked us if we were Tourists, Visitors or Travellers? When pressed further, the discussion got very interesting.

Tourists have plans, they know where they will be every evening, they know what they will see every day. They join tour groups, eat in ‘safe’ restaurants with English Menus and familiar foods, and they stay in ‘comfortable’ surroundings. You see them at all the major attractions, but rarely at the minor ones – not enough time in their schedules. They arrive in a city in the morning, and leave the next evening, enabling them to check that one-off their list. If there’s an important festival – they plan to attend. They prefer to talk to other foreigners, or among themselves. They often either ignore, or never learn any words in the language of the country they are visiting, again – not enough time.

I think we have all been tourists – sometimes in our own home towns We structure our day to be sure to capture the important ‘stuff’, leaving no time and no room for chance.

Visitors spend more time in each place they go. Because they have more time, they can afford to take a chance on different kinds of food – street food or meals in local restaurants. They may hit all the ‘top’ attractions, but they will also visit lesser known temples, museums, shopping areas, sections of town. Having more time means seeing fewer destinations, but makes it easier to see more of the ones you do land in.

The Intrepid Traveler and I are visitors. We chat up locals – even if only a few words, we exchange favorite foods on the metros with our seat mates. we spend time in religious meeting places, letting our feet relax, and our minds wander. We accept gifts from strangers – a taste of ginseng from a lady on the subway, cookies from a vendor on the street, a cake from our seat-mate at the bus station. We smile and wave at everyone – and get rewarded by becoming the ‘mission’ for a group of Korean School kids – asked by their teacher to talk to a foreigner. We are Visitors.

Tourists take Cruises – visitors take boats.
Tourists fly – Visitors take trains or Buses.
Tourists make plans – Visitors rely on the kindness of strangers.
Tourists and Visitors stay in all kinds of lodging – it’s not the lodging that makes the difference – it’s the time, the need for planning, the openness to adventure that makes the difference.

But what is a traveller. Alfonso was basically referring to himself. He is extremely fortunate to have the ability to work, and earn a very good income, any time he feels the need. So instead of taking a long-term position, he takes short-term contracts when he runs out of money, and otherwise – he travels. Many times his destination is unknown, even to him. The wind of chance blows him as it will, allowing him the opportunity to wander the streets of a district without a plan, without a goal, just the desire to experience the life there before he moves on.

To me – being a traveller sounds wonderful on the surface, but consider the downside. Like a rolling stone, a traveller by Alfonso’s definition will never get married, have kids, have grand kids. They will never have a place to call ‘home’, a garden to worry about missing the azalea blooms, friends to see month after month.

Nope – I don’t want to be a traveller – being a visitor is good enough for me.

Signing off – Korean Visitors – the Intrepid Traveller and the Soup Lady.