Ramblings Of A Seasoned Traveler
As a kid I dreamed of traveling the world – going from new place to new place and just wandering. While it didn’t happen exactly the way I dreamed it would, I am satisfied with how things have turned out.
When we first hit the road in 2007, everything was new. Up until that point I had lived a somewhat closed off life in the Western part of the United States. Even our three month cross-country trip opened my eyes. The United States is vast and the culture definitely varies regionally.
During that trip, just about everything was new and incredible to me. I was overwhelmed with how much there was to do and see and how little time we had. A small museum here, a giant ball of yarn there, we did as much as we could. Then we left the United States and the cultures of Central America, Oceania, and Asia blew us away. Everything was so different and new.
Before long though we recognized a theme. You can only go to so many tourist sites and art museums before they all start to look the same. In one way, traveling too much can show you how similar the world is in certain ways.
As the years have passed, we have continued to explore new areas of the world. Every country has a national museum, a national art gallery and more monuments then you can count. We eventually realized that we didn’t have to see any of them. We began to pick & choose based on how we felt. Don’t feel like visiting the art museum today in Croatia? Well there will be another one tomorrow in Montenegro.
This past week I have been
running around traveling through three new countries in Europe. For some reason I still feel this enormous pull towards seeing and discovering new places. It would be silly to deny this need to travel, since it no doubt has shaped a good portion of my life this past decade.
Luxembourg, Belgium & the Netherlands have long been on my list of places to visit and after getting a small taste of each one, I am impressed. Of course, I didn’t arrive here with my eyes as wide as others. I have traveled through much of Europe and while the cultures are all slightly different, they share an enormous amount of commonalities.
It is this last distinction that I actually think is one of the greatest perspectives gained through traveling. Not only do I recognize the similarities and differences between these cultures (to the extent that a foreigner can), but I don’t feel the need to be a tourist . If a tourist site interests me then I visit it. If I feel like sitting in the park all day or resting in my hotel room, then I do that. It is very freeing.
While the appeal of going new places is the allure of travel for most people, perhaps the greatest thing about being a seasoned traveler is returning to your favorite places. I sometimes forget this realization in my quest to visit as many countries as possible, but new isn’t always better.
I was just in New York last week for a day and a half. During our first visit to the city in 2007, we spent four 16 hour days running around Manhattan. During that time we visited every major museum, saw a Broadway show, walked through Central Park and did just about every other touristy thing available. It was exhausting!
On this past visit, my fifth, I enjoyed the views, visited the World Trade Center, ate some pizza, sat for an hour people watching in Times Square and spent an entire day strolling the High Line catching up with an old friend who lives there. I spent a day and half doing activities that could have been achieved in three hours. New York is almost like an old friend.
Tomorrow I leave Europe to pay a visit to another old friend, Hong Kong. I may make a trek to Victoria Peak, however the rest of my time will be spent away from most of the tourists. I will do what I feel (perhaps visit Hong Kong Disneyland) and try to get to know the city a little better. While I will never know places like Hong Kong or New York like the locals do, I am happy with the closeness I feel with them.
The truth is that you will never know the affects that travel will have on you until you do it. As someone who has always wanted to do and see new things, I would never have imagined that one of my favorite parts of travel would be going back to the places I had already been! While there will always be a deep desire within me to discover “new”, I am glad that so much of the world feels “old” to me now.