There is a constant debate surrounding the ‘best way’ to travel. Some travelers like hostels; others fancy hotels. Some prefer to get lost and let their surroundings envelop them, while others require a map and itinerary to guide them along their way (Similarly discoursed are the topics of fine dining vs. street food, train vs. plane vs. bus vs. boat, backpack vs. suitcase, and other proclivities). As cliché as it may be, I’m going to call upon the “Toe-may-toe/Toe-mah-toe” theory and say that no two persons are the same: we each have our own ways of doing things. Travel is no different. Not everyone is suited to backpack, climb a mountain or sleep— for days— in a hammock on a Costa Rican beach. For that reason, it is essential [for any person wishing to travel] to possess a strong sense of self-awareness. Understanding our own strengths and weaknesses plays a huge part in organizing a trip. The next time you think about going away, ask yourself the following: “Am I the type to go with the proverbial grain, or against it?”
Going With the Grain
You know you’re not a good swimmer, so you stay far away from the ocean. This is an extremely rational way of thinking— it can be the difference between life and death. Understandably, we oftentimes utilize this train of thought when booking a trip.
- We say to ourselves, “I don’t speak Portuguese, so let me cross both Portugal and Brazil off the list,” or “I’m not a big fan of Indian food, so I’ll stay away from India.”
As stated above, different strokes for different folks; however, this way of thinking is very limiting, and can often result in an analogous travel experience— predictable, with more tourism and less travel.
Going Against the Grain
You know you’re not a good swimmer, so you take a few lessons just so you can have fun the next time you’re near the ocean. A more relaxed, free-spirited approach to travel, this method sees one buy a guidebook to become familiar with a place, then throw caution to the wind, leave the guide behind and experience things first hand.
- We say to ourselves, “I don’t know Japanese, but I suppose I can learn some when I get there,” or “I’ve never tried Ethiopian food— I suppose that will be changing soon!”
Going into an excursion with this mindset will usually result in a unique, unfathomed, adventurous experience, with a lesson in culture thrown in for good measure.
As previously stated, it is important to be self-aware. When we are, we know when to speed up and when to slow down, ultimately employing a mix of these two concepts. There are people who choose not to visit a particular place because of one reason or another; however, wherever they do end up, they employ extempore traveling by being spontaneous (and going against the grain). Similarly, there are people who travel to places they know nothing about, find the’ve gotten in way over their heads and end up sticking to the beaten path.
Even though going against the grain is encouraged, understand what really matters is how you feel: if you find you’ve got reservations or are uncomfortable with a situation, perhaps it’s best— especially if you’re a novice traveler— to find something better suited to both your personality and experience. Never feel pressured into living up to others’ travel expectations, as ultimately, it’s your journey, your memories and your happiness! Choose well! — VJ