29 Jun Travel against the tide
Travel is a powerful tool in your hands to have unforgettable and lasting experiences. It allows you to test your skills, face fears and insecurities, and grow together with everyone you meet.
For this to happen we are convinced of one thing: it is important to know how to travel. There are no manuals written on purpose and yet in our lives we have certainly read a travel book in whose pages we have found inspiration or seen a movie whose plot particularly impressed us. We mention two of our favorites: “On a Vespa. From Rome to Saigon,” (original title: In Vespa. Da Roma a Saigon) author Giorgio Bettinelli and “The Motorcycle Diaries” (original title: Diarios de motocicleta) directed by Walter Salles (2004).
The central theme for both is adventure; the characters decide for a period of time to abandon their habits to explore life on the road, finding unexpected events and new encounters. Traveling, in our view, is an act of faith in which one jumps in without thinking too much, but with the confidence that one will discover much, both during and at the end of the journey. It is essential, however, to do it with knowledge and, above all, without getting caught up in the fever of modern tourism whose most important goal is to fulfill desires and expectations without caring about the experience itself or its modalities.
In short, if you have dreamed in your life of an exotic destination in a luxury resort with a trip organized down to the last detail by the tour operator, there is nothing wrong with that; it will surely be an exciting experience, full of surprises and pleasant situations. What we want to propose here, however, is something different.
We thought to give you some tips on how to organize your next trip; you can follow them all or just a few, but we are quite sure that they will help you to have a different experience through which you will have a personal change and enrichment.
So without further ado, here’s a list of things to keep in mind:
- Buy only the ticket (by land, air, water) to the desired destination: exactly so, whatever destination you choose, try to organize the trip as little as possible; do not book hotels, restaurants, travel, various experiences, activities etc. Give yourself a chance to arrive in the country and start your journey without a safety net, being guided by instinct and information gathered (see tip 2). Disclaimer: in recent years, in many countries around the world, in order to cross the border, in addition to the necessary documents( passport, visas etc.) you need to show an overnight stay in a hotel for the first night: book that for sure!
- Read before leaving at least two guidebooks and a book (novel, essay etc.) written by a local author; it is important that of the two guidebooks one is at least practical in nature and full of useful information. To be clear, guidebooks can be of two types: the former give a historical, artistic, social, and economic description of the country you want to travel to; they are interesting for understanding the cultural and naturalistic contexts of the local people and habitats; they will certainly help you in orienting yourself in the most important customs and traditions (to avoid misunderstandings or uncomfortable situations); the latter, however, are essential for adventurous travel; they are full of practical information, such as bus schedules, train routes, hostels or hotels, restaurants, activities, and little-trodden routes. As an example, Lonely Planet is one of the most widely used guidebooks in the world, and we have often used it during our travels. The more you can gather useful information before the departure, the more interesting the trip will be.
- Learn to speak a fluent English: spend some time in your week learning this language that is widely used around the world and will enable you to communicate with many people; of course if you have enough time the best thing would be to learn the local language. When you are travelling in this way you need to be able to communicate with the people around you to get information: they are your main resource for getting to know places, knowing how to get around and where to go, learning to respect local customs. English will not always be enough, but it is a good basis for traveling and also to relate with other travelers encountered along the way.
- Use local means of transportation to get around: travel is and remains primarily a displacement: from point A to point B everything in between is the substance of the journey. Do not stop at the destination, but enjoy the whole journey; it is there where wonderful things are discovered, where friendships are made albeit briefly, where one can relax in a different context from our own and with new geometries for the eyes. Traveling by local means (buses, trains, boats, etc.) is the best way to get to know a country and its culture: especially in many countries of the world where nomadism is still very much anchored: India, Latin America, Asia and Africa are inhabited by men and women on the move; they constitute a much more fluid and communal societies than ours, where work, family and friendship relationships are based on constant movement and interactions in society are mostly improvised and spontaneous.
- Turn off cell phones and buy a good camera: we are connected much of our lives, constantly on the reach. While traveling try to let go of this subtle addiction for some time and if you like the document your travel buy a good camera. For cell phones there is always time in the evening, when in your hostel with wifi connection you can do some research to plan the next day.
- Buy a map: how much information can a map give us? A lot: if you take a few hours to look at a map you will realize how many suggestions you will find in it about places to visit or simply to orient yourself in your travels. This is not just a job for cartographers or environmental guides: maps can give us a general impression of the morphology of the territory and based on our preferences give us a hint to where to go (lakes, seas, jungles, mountains, cities, villages, islands etc.).
- Use couchsurfing.com: the online platform created around twenty years ago now offers the possibility of being hosted in people’s homes, without any charge, just by creating a profile and starting to get positive reviews; the system is simple and allows you to travel in a different way than usual: read the profiles of who is offering this possibility and when you find like-minded people write to them directly: if you are lucky you will be able to stay in their homes for several days and share experiences together (a dinner, a tour of the city, a trek, go to the market, meet their friends or family members etc. ).
- Hitchhike: traveling in this way is tiring, but extremely rewarding; you cannot imagine how many interesting conversations, hilarious moments and unexpected events we have experienced during our travels while moving from one destination to another hitchhiking. Two are the basic requirements: arm yourself with patience because sometimes you have to wait and sweat for the ride and, above all, do not make too many plans for the day. One is the golden rule: find points along the road where cars are forced to slow down (speed bumps, stop signs etc.) or stop (toll booths, gas pumps); there you will have a better chance and hope of meeting someone who is going to give you a ride.
- Look in-loco for responsible tourism agencies: once you arrive at the desired location take some time to visit the local tourist office and read in the guidebook which tour operators are the best: pass by in person and gather information about organized tours with emphasis on sustainability; namely try to prefer agencies with local guides, with a maximum number of participants (small groups, no more than ten, fifteen people), with activities that protect wildlife (no going near wild animals and feeding them) and promote real sharing with local communities (meeting times, seminars, lectures etc. ).
- Take an indefinite time for travel: this is the last piece of advice and we put it at the bottom precisely because we are aware that not everyone can follow it: however, if you have the opportunity, look for a period in your life where you can put your deadlines, goals, priorities on stand-by and carve out a long time for traveling (at least three or four months). In many countries a sabbatical year is considered a reasonable request by a worker to gain new experiences and is even seen as a recognition to be included in the curriculum vitae. If you are successful, we recommend that you buy a one-way ticket with no specific return date to enjoy even more the feeling of setting off on a one-of-a-kind adventure. Think of the great explorers of the sixteenth century as they sailed to unknown lands, not knowing what they would find and when they would return; there were certainly fears and insecurities in their minds, but their excitement and taste for adventure motivated them to make their lives a laboratory of unique experiences.