Things that I did
So far I had an amazing year. I surfed the waves of the Zurriola beach in San Sebastián, ate the most delicious meals the basque cuisine has to offer, enjoyed the amazing landscape of the Flysch in Zumaia, was trying to make sense of modern art in the Guggenheim – Bilbao, marveled from the strange beauty of Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona, walked a part of the Camino del Norte, sailed the Balaton in Hungary, climbed quite a few mountains, had a swim in multiple mountain lakes, ate Spaghetti Carbonara in Rome, was awestruck by the St. Peter Basilica, had a taste of the Middle Age in Piazza del Campo in Siena. And to top it off, I am writing all of this from a new hostel in Florence which is built in an old monastery and I am only the second-ever guest.
What were your thoughts while you were reading all of this? Here are some possible examples I could think off: “Oh, wow, that is so cool!”, “I wanna do this as well!”, “Pff, just another one of these traveling millennials!”, “Flying has a bad impact on the environment!”, “How can he afford all of that?”, “He probably has rich parents…”, “Was it all really that nice like it sounds?”, “What a showoff!”, “He seems to have had a good time.”, “Those places are so beautiful!”, “Booooring!”, “That’s just so mainstream!”, “Has he even done some individual traveling?”.
It is also quite possible that you haven’t had any of those thoughts, but most probably you have some kind of opinion about it (which is only human after all). I just want to confess that all of these are thoughts that I catch myself having when others tell me about their travels. For some reason, a big part of traveling is telling others about it. It is no surprise that there are all of those travel influencers around. I probably took around 30 photos of strangers this year all around Europe and to be honest, also had quite a few taken. Still, I keep on wondering what the actual use of all those photos is. Are they not kind of inflationary? Do they have a real value? Well, I have to admit some of them are quite nice, but most of them are probably nothing special.
As you might have figured this post is supposed to be about reflections of traveling in general and not about boasting (although, it probably still does exactly that). Squeezing through masses of people in front of the Colosseum, or while standing in line for the St. Peter Basilica I find myself loathing tourists. But, guess what, I am just another one of them.
Of course, I am better than them: I had a better schedule visiting all the sights (even though I spent quite some time waiting in lines), I took much more time marveling at the beauty of the monuments (pretending to be educated while reading the Wikipedia article of the place), I take part in local culture (as I eat the food the touristic restaurant around the corner offers me), I come in contact with the local people (when I ask waiters for the
Well, at least I didn’t book one of those prepared tours anyone else did. I was smart, I booked the cheapest hostel the algorithm found and then followed the amazing tips of the travel blog I found online which was actually the first result of my Google search. Maybe my traveling is not that individual after all. But, even if I am taking part in all of that to some degree I want to voice an opinion that I believe not so many people think about. I saw a lot of bad effects mass tourism has on the local people and nature. To cite a conversation I had with a local this year: “If a fancy cupcake shop appears around the corner your quarter is lost”.
This summarizes a lot of things happening in one sentence: International investors with their international businesses appear and drive local culture out. But it doesn’t stop at culture. It also drives the people out as rents and the general cost of living skyrocket. I wonder why people travel to Barcelona just to shop at H&M and to eat McDonald’s. It’s hard to find answers to those problems, because everyone should have the right to see those amazing places. However, I think what matters is not whether you see those attractions but about how you see them and how you act while you are there.
Less is more! Funnily enough through my travels, I learned to appreciate my home much more: in its own way it is probably as beautiful as most of the places I visited and I need to enjoy it much more. Another thing that I noticed is that the fear of missing out (check out my post about #fomo) when traveling is omnipresent. I call it the checklist attitude: “Have seen that!
My advice (also to myself) is: Slow down. Appreciate what is there, try to keep your mind at your current location and not at the next place you want to visit. Slow down. The fastest way of traveling is not necessarily the best (economically and ecologically speaking), you could have some amazing stopovers or amazing conversations whilst traveling. Slow down. Is the place far away really so much better than your backyard? Slow down. Maybe try to have a real conversation with a local person, e.g. make a new friend. Slow down. Not just travel through places, settle there for some time to learn about language, culture and so much more. Slow down. Is seeing more places really better, then getting to know a few ones much closer?
The second thing I want to talk about is respect. Respect the local culture, respect the people, respect the nature. Have a look around, how do locals act? Is what you are doing respectful? What makes you think that when you travel to another country the rules your parents taught don’t apply anymore? What makes you think that in this other country the same rules apply as
All in all, I had an amazing time this year and I want to honor the privilege I had b