Travel slowly. Don't be a tourist.

White girl trying to understand India, 2011. I volunteered at a human rights NGO for one month in Varanasi, India instead of traveling.

White girl trying to understand India, 2011. I volunteered at a human rights NGO for one month in Varanasi, India instead of traveling.

After all, who wants to be a tourist? I want to be a visitor, a traveller. A slow traveller. I've never been one of those who needs to be wowed. I don't need to visit the words largest and biggest and greatest thing. I don't need to do bungee jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm looking for the small things. (I'm giving you the "Golden Gate Bridge" example because I'll be headed to California next week. Actually, I'll already be there when this post goes online. So, my little 2-weeks vacation inspired me to write a few words on how I prefer to travel.)

I prefer to take it slowly.

 

I don't want to tick off boxes of "have-to-do/have-to-see" things.

I don't want to rush from one major tourist sight to the other just to take that damn foto, post it on Instagram and prove the world that I'm truly there. 

 
Taking pictures of funny looking people in the London tube instead of red telephone boxes, 2009.

Taking pictures of funny looking people in the London tube instead of red telephone boxes, 2009.

Also, how interesting is your travel really if you just go to places that reinforce what you expected to find? Actually, this is no travel, at all. This is just staying within your own mental borders and looking for your preconceptions to be reinforced.

I even hesitated to buy a guide book for my trip to California. I don't really like being told what is "worth" visiting, as if the rest wasn't. I also feel slightly stressed by guide books. They always make me feel a bit guilty if I don't get around to see all the hot spots. ...The ones that the Lonely Planet marks with that goddamn star. (*goes and buys 3 guide books* 😂 Honestly, I'm torn. On the one had, I want to be informed about the places I visit. On the other hand, it does spoilt part of the experience and the adventure.)

 
Blurry photo of protesters in Mexico, 2007. I spent weeks interviewing a people's movement in Oaxaca for uni. It was my form of getting to know Mexico.

Blurry photo of protesters in Mexico, 2007. I spent weeks interviewing a people's movement in Oaxaca for uni. It was my form of getting to know Mexico.

Visiting, travelling, tourism often times results in "consuming" the place. You try to pack as many things as possible into your day to make the "most" of your experience and not "miss" anything. Did you notice how people speak of their travels? "I did Costa Rica. I did Santiago de Chile. I did Patagonia." Like they fucked these places. Maybe it's just my dirty English-second-language mind that comes up with this association, but to me, this expression sounds awful. 

Actually, I prefer not to travel, at all. I prefer to go to a place and just live there for a week or six months and just see what life there is like. You have to immerse yourself in another culture and experience a different day-to-day life, if you truly want to understand a foreign place. Anything else is just circus for the tourists. 

But, well, unfortunately, I can't always live a different life for a little while. However, I still try to take is slowly in my travels and to not consume the place and not buy into the circus.