Everyone has various reasons why they travel. But if you ask any traveler what sparked the decision to travel to a certain country, there is always one common thread – curiosity.
We are all born to be curious about life and I remembered my first journey to another country was a simple road trip to a neighboring country when I was 4 -5 years old. Yet, even though it was not a vast distance, once my family and I crossed the border, the scenery around us changed completely and a whole new world seemed to unfold before my innocent eyes and I was in awe. I was very fortunate that my parents were able to bring my siblings and myself to an annual holiday abroad and I remembered my first flight to Australia at the age of 12 and the experience of being transported to a different world altogether, where the locals looked different from myself and the many new and different things seen and experienced. It was all so exciting and I knew even then, that I wanted to continue exploring all that the world had to offer. Since then, I have been to many types of holidays – beach holidays, cultural holidays, adventure holidays, volunteering holidays or simply sightseeing holidays. But they all have one common theme for me, which is of utmost importance when planning my holiday – the local experience. It could be simply visiting a local neighborhood or experiencing local cuisine (which is usually a top priority for me!).
I believe that travel has opened my mind to appreciate the differences in every local culture and traditions while recognizing the similarities too and celebrating them. It has made me more empathetic to differences and to be more appreciative of all that I have. One of the most striking thing that I learnt during one of my holidays was when I visited Sweden and later, Norway as well. In Scandinavian countries, men and women are truly of equal genders and they take this very seriously. It is quite common to see men as the househusband (instead of women) during the daytime, bringing their kids out to school and to the playground while their wife works.
Travel is also a good ice-breaker in any social setting! People love to talk about their country and they love it when someone else has visited their country or planning to visit their country. In my opinion, speaking to locals and getting their tips and favorite places in their own country is a definite inclusion in my itinerary!
While I think that a certain level of planning is needed for any holiday, and this applies to majority of the population since we have full time jobs that allows only a certain number of days for holidays, since a planned itinerary would ensure that the reasons for visiting a country can be achieved within the time period. However, I have also come to realise that too much research and planning can lead to certain expectations and put one in a boxed perception of the city and country that we are visiting. It could also prevent any genuine local experience if we fit too much activities in the itinerary, leaving out any possibility to mingle and get to know more in-depth the local culture and traditions.
Technology plays a big role in this aspect and in the evolution of how one travels. It certainly has its advantages in cutting down the amount of planning and booking a holiday, however, if one goes overboard, it could lead to information overload and leads to a cramped itinerary with no breathing space, which is not what one wants to feel on a holiday! Perhaps this is how the common phrase one hears from someone returning from a holiday saying “I need another holiday!”.
Technology has also provided an ease in navigating one’s journey in a foreign country. With the GPS locator, one can get around pretty easily in most countries. However, it also has a disadvantage when overused – one never need to ask a local for directions or recommendations or speak to anyone else for that matter which prevents the local experience from happening. I remembered my first major backpacking trip to Spain and Portugal in my early twenties. I was the planner and navigator for the trip with another girlfriend who was more introverted and have never gone on a free & easy trip before. Prior to the trip, I took up basic Spanish language course as I knew certain parts of Spain did not speak a word of English and also because I love the language and have always wanted to learn it. While I had pre-booked the hotels across Spain, and did some basic routes for trains and buses, the actual buying of tickets and finding the locations of all these places required a map and asking around for directions. While it was daunting on the first day, I soon got the hang of it and actually looked forward to speaking with locals and striking up colourful conversations that comprises of half Spanish, half English and some parts in sign language – it was awesome and reason to travel.
The mobile phone, other than the use of its GPS / Google map for directions, is also now frequently used as the main device to take photographs during a holiday. The main reason for this evolvement I believe is the need to share on social media with friends and family and having instant feedback on the pictures taken. While it is a fantastic sharing platform, and ease of use (not to mention the lightness of the device versus an actual camera), because of its mobility, one can be so intent on sharing everything they see through the small screen on their phones that they forget to pause and appreciate the beauty with their naked eyes.
So the importance of balance in using technology for planning or during your holiday is key to getting the best out of your holiday and feeling recharged and inspired instead of exhausted!