Why you can’t love every place you visit…
“Some would certainly stone me for saying this, but I don’t travel to places for the people anymore. It’s the sights and things to do there that are why I go. Friendly locals are always a bonus in my book, but they don’t make or break a trip for me”.
The above is a comment I received not so long ago. I’ve deleted it because I don’t want to single out or embarrass the commenter (a very popular blogger).
But the comment stuck in my head and nagged away at me. I’ll get to that in a minute.
But a few things first:
Different travel bloggers travel and blog for different reasons. I’ve seen a few bloggers, popular ones like the commenter, who’s travel experiences consist of Press Trips, spa treatments, reviews of Broadway shows or hotel stays. 90% of their travel experiences are sponsored by a tourist board, hotel, or some kind of tourist event. They usually have a disclosure at the bottom similar to this: “Disclosure: Our stay at _______ Hotel and visit to the __________ Spa were hosted by _________Hotel in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely our own”.
I’m not belittling these ‘Professional’ Bloggers, they probably end up seeing more places than the rest of us and, honestly, they’re the envy of most travel bloggers. Imagine travelling on someone else’s dime, being guided everywhere you go by a host, and just having to write reviews about their experiences? Sweet! (or “Mint!” as a British blogger I know likes to say). Again, I don’t mean to be belittle these kinds of bloggers – they’ve earned their success through smart marketing and hard work and actually have a paying career thanks to the work they do with their blog.
What is “travel”? I also don’t want to be one of those travel snobs who compares tourists to ‘real’ travelers. The guy travelling to one of those all-inclusives in the Caribbean (does it really matter where?) is ‘travelling’, by definition*, just as much as someone hitch-hiking through Peru.
* Merriam-Webster Dictionary on the word travel:
: to go on a trip or journey
: to go to a place and especially one that is far away
: to go through or over (a place) during a trip or journey
: to move from one place to another
‘Professional’ Bloggers have as much right to call themselves travelers as the guy staying at that all-inclusive or the adventurous hitch-hiker, right? Again, I don’t want to insinuate that there are different classes of travelers and that some are better than others.
But here is what bothers me:
As a traveler, and especially as a blogger, how can you form an opinion or recommend a destination if you are excluding people/culture/history from the equation? Is travel just about visiting tourist sites or going places to bungee jump or skydive?
It bothers me fundamentally because every opinion/feeling that Lissette and I have about a destination has been formed by our experiences with people and culture. Every country we’ve ever visited was chosen because it was of interest to us. And we had different ideas/perceptions before going to each. But the one constant is that we’ve been in some way surprised by every single place we’ve ever been to after spending time there and getting acquainted with the people and the culture. Examples. We thought we’d love Brazil. Everyone does right? We didn’t. We found the people unfriendly. Maybe they weren’t representative of the average Brazilian. People tell me that we weren’t lucky, that the stars didn’t align. I don’t know. But that was our experience. And experiences shape perception. And that is why I say everything is personal. We went to Cuba for a bit of history and because we wanted to save some money – staying in Casa particulars (private homes) and getting to know Cubans made that trip one of our best ever. Nowhere have we felt more comfortable with the people. I’ve been to the Dominican Republic 6 times and spent 4 weeks backpacking through the country. I love the DR. Someone just looking to review a beach resort or do some surfing may have had a different opinion. But the people and the culture made me fall in love with it. Again, it’s personal. So how can one write about a country without people or culture being an integral part of the equation? How can you be indifferent to your experiences and perceptions? I love Hong Kong but saw it from a different perspective when visiting it with Lissette. She didn’t like it. Maybe she would have loved it if it had been just about seeing sights and doing activities. Like taking the Peak Tram or reviewing a fancy restaurant. But she hated how she felt as a colored person in Hong Kong. And that far outweighed any wonder that she might have felt taking that 10 minute tram ride up to the peak. We spent a little over a month in Costa Rica a few years ago and were both left very indifferent. We felt that the country had sold out to foreign interests. Other countries keep us coming back; Germany, Italy, Colombia, Thailand, and Mexico are all places that we’ve been more than once. What keeps us coming back? Above anything else it’s how we feel going to those countries. Others may come away with totally different feelings about a place because of a multitude of reasons (race, culture, expectations, itinerary) but I can almost guarantee that those feelings are shaped by the locals they met along the way and the everyday stories…and not because they experienced a cool canoeing experience in a country halfway around the world.
So are you really ‘travelling’ if you don’t care to interact with the people or culture?
Case in point Bangkok, where we arrived a week ago. Damn, this city definitely won’t be loved by everyone. We’ve spent the first 7 days in an Airbnb rental in Sathorn in the city center. Lots of foreign embassies, so you know this is an ‘upscale’ neighborhood. But even here you walk down the street and you’ll be assaulted by the smell of raw food and sewage and will be stepping over broken sidewalks and street dogs/cats (some in such bad shape you almost wish them death) and mounds of garbage. Lights on streets are sometimes barely functional and you’ll stumble over the occasional rat as we did last night in Patpong (or “Ping pong” as we call it for obvious reasons to anyone who’s been there). You’ll see beggars including women with babies and men with missing limbs. Even with this being our 5th visit here, Bangkok is a shock to the senses and we’re still in the process of settling in mentally. We spent the last 3 months in beautiful Prague and it couldn’t be more different. Unlike Prague which has tons of ‘must see’ attractions Bangkok really only has one world class sight. So you don’t come here solely for the sights.
It’s the people and culture that keep people coming back and you’ll never appreciate Bangkok unless you actually take the time to try embrace the culture, food, and people. A week in and we are regulars on our ‘soi’ (the alley that leads to our apartment). The fruit-selling lady beams a big smile and says hello, a lady who I don’t even recognize from the building waves an enthusiastic ‘sawadeeka!!’ and her kids do the same. I guess we’re pretty recognizable. The waiter at our regular restaurant always comes out on the street to chit-chat. In Thailand even a small 2-block soi becomes a little neighborhood onto itself. There are more reasons why Bangkok is worth a visit and I’ll cover that further in another post.
For Lissette and I, experiences with locals shape how we feel about a place and how we describe them on the blog. We are probably positive of about 85% of the places we’ve been on our travels, which I think is pretty good. You can’t love every place you visit the same way you won’t love every restaurant you eat in. And some people will on occasion call us negative or biased in our opinions. Of course we’re biased, they’re our experiences. What’s important, at least to us, is that our reflections on a place are an honest portrayal of our experiences and feelings. Other travelers might have totally different experiences and be left with totally different opinions and feelings for a place. Great, that’s what makes travel interesting and we’ve had some good conversations with other bloggers about different places. It’s fun to compare notes.
But when I hear a blogger, an experienced blogger, tell me “I don’t travel to places for the people anymore. It’s the sights and things to do there that are why I go” it, to us, misses the whole point. It reduces travel to this:
So maybe we can all talk about our experiences climbing the Eiffel tower. Now, is that so interesting? 🙁
Why do you travel? What good and bad experiences have you had?
Related: We’re not on Holiday! Differences between vacationing and travelling explained
Related: Our Kyoto meltdowns. Are we all just photo-clicking monkeys? What’s travel about?
Related: Does the Romance of Travel still exist?
Related: Group Tours vs Independent Travel. The Pros and Cons… and some thoughts.
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Its like sport, food and drinks. I don’t know why people get upset on forums when you say you dislike a place. If you dare say you dislike Hua Hin or Chiang Mai on Tripadvisor the guardians will attack like wolves. It doesnt make sense cause when a place becomes too popular the temples, roads, beaches, attractions become too crowded do its actually better if less people visited. Im quite happy if the places I like arent popular. That keeps them from being ruined. Look at Phi Phi and Samui. Great islands ruined by fame.
I couldn’t agree with you more. The one constant everywhere we travel is that the fewer the tourists, the friendlier the locals.
Value for money
Those are the 5 things I look at. I havent been to lots of countries but I doubt many get big ticks in all 5 areas.
Exactly, I agree. Of course they’ll always be differences between the activities or food you enjoy and what others enjoy. But that’s good, otherwise we’d all be in the same damn place 😉
Very well said! Travel is certainly not just the sights. It’s not possible to exclude people from a place; they form the culture! True about Bangkok too. I was born there and lived there all my life, and although it’s beautiful, the essence is the people, the culture. It’s the way of life that makes it special.
And you’re right. A person who chooses an all inclusive holiday doesn’t deserve to be judged or belittled in comparison with a more adventrous one. Just because one travels more, they certainly don’t have a right to say that their way is the correct way. Each has their own journey to travel.
Great post! 🙂
Ah, I didn’t know you were from Bangkok Nita. Thank you very much for taking the time to comment, happy to see you agree 😉
Laura (xoxo xenophile)
Reading the comments here (for me anyway) really proves your point–travel is personal!
Some of my favorite destinations have been Mexico and Bolivia, because I love the culture (I speak Spanish, which I think makes a big difference) and have always found the people friendly and welcoming. My least favorite so far (mainly because of bad experiences with the local culture/people) has been Paris. There are comments above from people who have had the opposite experiences in all three places!
Paris had a lot of interesting sights of course, and I have to say, I have some pretty beautiful pictures from the city, but I never felt comfortable there, partly because it was much dirtier than I expected and partly because of the people. (I’ve recently written a blog post about it if you’d like to read more about my experience there.) Anyways, Paris definitely tops the list for a lot of people for the “sights” (Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, all those iconic ones) but I just did not have good experiences with the people, which ruined the trip for me. On the other hand, I’ve been to Mexico five times on home-building mission trips. I love Mexico and the people I’ve met through this–we spend three days building the house while getting to know the family. I really enjoy talking to the kids, meeting the pastors of the churches where we stay, and often eating delicious Mexican food made for us by the families. On these trips we don’t see any kind of tourist sites (there really aren’t any in the places we go anyway) or do any “activities” besides building the house and sometimes playing soccer with the neighborhood kids, but some of my best travel memories have been from them. These two examples for me prove that travel, and more to the point, your opinion of a place, are about a lot more than the sights you can see and the activities you can do there!
Great comment Laura. Interesting about Paris, I was recently told the same by our tour guide in Prague. She couldn’t get over how dirty Paris was…she was really disappointed. I haven’t been in about 20 years.
We’ve never been to Bolivia but agree with all you say about Mexico. Very nice people. Home building mission? Must have been a good experience.
Thank you for the comment Laura!
Travel is personal. We try to balance it out. I always laugh when people say they don’t want to visit the tourist areas, because guess what? I’m a tourist. I don’t live there. I’m a tourist. But do I want to get sucked into the tourist traps, no, but I do want to visit the stand-out sites and if that makes me a tourist, so be it. But, I also enjoy getting to know the people. We spent 3 weeks in Paris, rented an apartment and lived among the local culture and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. But we also went to Versailles and the Louvre, etc. Balance.
Honestly, I don’t envy those bloggers out there who travel solely (or 90%) on comped trips. The occasional comp is great. We just scored comped Eurail passes in exchange for promotion. Yay! But that’s just a very small part of our upcoming journey. Sometimes when I read a blog that is all about the comp, it can come across as insincere, perfectly posed, perfectly spoken with very little heart. First we did this, then we did this, the food was great, the views were lovely. Why not weave those thoughts into a story from the heart, rather than just a travel dialogue? I’d much rather read that, which is why I rarely read blogs that are all bout the comp. I don’t feel a sense of balance.
Thanks for the great comment Patti! I understand why some want to do it, there’s a lot of prestige involved with someone actually giving you something for free. But as a reader I hate reading comped (ie free travel) because it basically sounds like a fluff piece that you’ll read in an inflight magazine. In other words, boring shit where everything is perfect, the people are incredibly friendly, and where even the street dogs don’t poop on the street.
I asked a travel blogger I met recently, who was getting ready for his first comped trip, how he would deal with it if he came away from the experience with negative feelings. It is something I had discussed with Spanky previously, wondering how we would cope with it. What he told me was that you can find a silver lining in everything. Which I guess is true…but again, how honest is that? And is it really worth it? Is it a pitfall that some bloggers fall into?
I’ve seen a few posts recently on “the differences between a traveller and a tourist”. Don’t really like when people start making class distinctions because, like you say, we end up seeing the same things along the way. We’re all tourists to some degree. But I always consider the human experience as being essential to discovering a place and the impressions that you are left with.
Thanks again for taking the time to comment!
I couldn’t agree more! I’m neither a professional blogger nor am I someone who judges how people choose to travel whether that’s full time travel or all inclusive breaks but I also can’t see how it’s possible to comment on an overall impression of a country without incorporating that interaction with local people – I also feel that the people and culture are such an integral part of what characterises a place. Great read.
Thanks Shikha – we’re totally on the same page!
I think traveling is very personal and can be different for every person. Sometimes I visit places indeed for the culture and the people, although I am not a big fan of museums and will try to avoid these. In other places the attractions are the most important part (for example in the US the National Parks, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu which was a personal experience for me …). Once every year or so, I do not even mind just to relax somewhere in a very beautiful hotel located in an incredible place with stunning scenery. Most of the time however, as we love nature, hiking that would be the main reason for us to travel … if we meet some great people along the way that would be a bonus. So again, it is very personal and different for every person.
Thanks for the comment Freya.
A very pertinent posting Frank, and very true as far as it goes, but I believe things are often a lot more nuanced. Any visit to a country / culture is usually/ invariably enhanced by contact , experiences and exchanges with its people – and the longer one is in a place the more important this element becomes. And in this respect, some countries are a lot easier than others. And a lot of this has to do with :-
a) Language . Travelling through northern Europe, for example, where the locals generally have a high level of bilingualism, and proficiency in English obvious makes things a cinch for the North American or Anglo traveller, who presumably, we are referring to in is posting. Anywhere, of course, but especially in countries where English is less widely spoken, and/or where cultural factors are especially different, a basic or minimal knowledge of the local lingo by the traveller, enhances things tremendously. Specifically, this could be applied to Italy, France and especially Spain – countries very proud of their own lingustic and cultural specificities. This doesn’t mean they are unable or unwilling to speak or greet the visitor in English, but relations and exchanges are facilitated tremendously by being able to meet the people more on their cultural terms, mentality etc, than them meeting us and making accomodations on ours ! I have found this especially true in most Latin American destinations, where very often speaking Enlish is roughly equated with ‘gringo’ – and all that word generally entails ! Speaking Spanish or even another European language there, very often changes everything , and opens up another dimension, that would often not be attainable otherwise. Unfortunately, at times English is not associated with always positive effects….
b) Commercial Relationships:- In a great many countries, and unfortiunately, invariably the poorer ones , and often due to linguistic limits on both sides, our relations and exchanges with the locals tend to be restricted to those who can converse in our language – and then they tend to be people in the tourist, or commercial domaines – ie selling something. In Thailand or Cambodia, for example, those proficient in English, Spanish, French – or Chinese for that matter – were easy to meet, communicate with and provide their services at all the major tourist sights and attractions. So much the better as they most definitely were proud, capable and enthusiastic , and did a tremendous job of explaining and illustrating their culture, beliefs and history to us, the tourists and visitors. They enabled us to really enjoy and far better understand the country – and its people. But beyond this relatively small group, it was nigh impossible to meet the ‘normal locals’ simply as it was impossible to communicate with them, as they rarely if ever had more than a few dozen words – usually the same ones – as a base for a conversation. That most definitely is NOT their fault at all … Far from it, as it is our fault to a far greater degree. But it did make it difficult to get beyond their friendly smiles, lovely character and open approach – which in and of itself, is still one of the great attractions of their countries, and which always makes a trip there so memorable and warm.
In some other countries, whether one speaks the local languague or not, makes little or no difference in meeting and mixing and meeting with the
locals… Specifically here, I recall Bolivia, or even southern Mexico. In general,the locals in many regions there have little or no interest in the visitor beyond his wallet – and given the general poverty and conditions, I cannot say I blame them….Who can be attracted to the depressed, negative present day culture where the average local’s lot, and priority is to survive another day, somehow, someway, no matter what ? Relations with the locals are almost impossible to have beyond the commercial aspect of things. But in such places, and leaving the local population aside for the moment, that does not take away anything from the enjoyment of the country,region – and its attractions – which is why anyone would basically be visitng the place in the first place .. Who would generally go to the Yucutan , if it were not for the Mayan temple – cities ? Most definitely NOT for the local culture or people…. And in this respect, I have to say there are a great many places on the world where the sole attractions are their History – and (ancient) Cultures – not its present or existing population , people or culture !!!
Many places are touchstones for us, simply for their physical atttraction, or beauty. Egypt and its unique, wonderous remnants of its tremendous ancient civilisation , or the Khymer temples and ruined cities are cases in point – wonderous places that enrich us, awake our sense of insignificance – or greatness – totally independent and irrespective of the present day people… They are places most deeinitely worth visitng in and of themselves, Period.
Travel is a unique, complex , ever varying equation of places, sights, experiences, people, and yes, even weather ! How often is our experience of a place adversely affected by adverse weather, no matter how great the rest of the experience was . But the partial or total loss of any one of these facets, or elements in the equation does not necessarily mean the Travel experience itself, is lost, minimised or destroyed…
Bonne continuation … Et Bon Voyage !
Great comment Tony and it is very true that most of us, us included, make our ‘bucket list’ (ugg I hate that expression) based on things we’d like to see and experience. I also think it’s further nuanced by whether we are visiting for a short trip (vacation) or a longer trip where more interaction with locals assured, for good or bad.
You’re right that European cultures easier to travel and ‘communicate’. But for us at least, this doesn’t necessarily mean ‘connecting’ more with locals. Connecting doesn’t mean necessarily talking, it can just be about feeling comfortable going about doing everyday things. One of the reasons we like Thailand is that locals, who may not even speak a word of the language, will go out of their way to help you the visitor. We’ve been in Bangkok 3 weeks and through a mix of hand signals, facial gestures, funny noises, and elementary English and maybe 3 Thai words, we’ve gotten around, communicated basics, and have felt comfortable. And that’s because of the friendly, warm attitudes of locals. We’ve been other places where we’ve had the same communication barriers and where the people give us a cold stare or give us a wave as they walk away. And I’ve had the same even in places where I speak the language!
That’s why I say that everything is personal and that the people make it so. I gave someone else an example of visiting the Taj Mahal – sure, we’d like to see it but at this point I’m weighing all the pros and (especially) cons of visiting India. We’re not ready for it. You mention Egypt, the Yucatan, and the Khymer ruins. Like India, I won’t visit Egypt for things other than the actual sights – Cairo looks 10 times worse than Bangkok and I’m not ready to fight with the locals on their turf. I don’t think its a place I would ever go (unlike India where we DO want to go one day). But Yucatan and Angkor Wat on our short list and I would go because I felt comfortable with both the Mexicans and Cambodians. So those places have made it on our list because of the attractions but I wouldn’t go, especially as an independent traveler, if I didn’t feel comfortable with the people.
I think we’re looking at it from different angles. You’re mentioning places to visit. I’m talking about places we’ve enjoyed spending time in and what has made those places special to us. I may decide to go places under the criteria you’ve mentioned (with certain caveats for people/culture) but for us, the way we travel, the things that we take away are the people and how comfortable we feel going to those places. They determine if we would ever go back.
You’re right that it is an incredibly nuanced subject. And you mention weather which is funny – lots of rain in Bangkok right now and it influences both your mood and how you see the place. Again, if you’re on a 3 day trip it can totally affect your opinion. We’ll have been here almost a month by the time we leave and have the luxury of relaxing in our condo, reading and lounging around the pool doing internet on icky days. We explore on sunny days, just like we would at home. I think it just makes for a more balanced perspective on the place and makes us a lot less hurried to see everything.
Thanks for your well thought out comment Tony, a good perspective!
Yes Frank – most of all The luxury of having Time in place makes the most of things – staying and living rather than just visiting. But still I can’t help believing that a lot, if not most of us, usually and initially visit a place because of the interest we have in its attractions and sights . After all when we first visit a place we have no, or little, idea of how ‘comfotable’ we are going to be with the locals . And often that level of comfort can be different in different parts of the country – Mexico being a case in point. Personally, I visited the Yucutan because I was interested in the ancient Maya civilisation, its ruins, temple cities etc. As it turned out, the overall experience was not improved by my experiences with the locals – but that did not dedract from the wonder of the places, nor my enjoyment of the region at all. There are absolutely no regrets about having gone and visited there (the same cannot be said of course, for the Mayan Riviera….lol) !!! And thats why i believe its worth visitng places that are of initial interest to you – and to trying and going to a lot of places that are not of (perhaps) initial interest. Egypt – being comfortable with the locals or not, aside – is still one of the greatest wonders of the world. And places like that, on my one-way trip through Life, automatically make them worth seeing and experiencing. If you had not visited Cuba, how would you have found
out how comfortable you were to be with the Cubans in the first place ? And maybe, just maybe your ‘experiment’ could have ended up (not that it did) being totally contrary – as it did in Brasil ?
I am not just mentioning places to visit – although that is definitely part of the equation. It is places to experience – with or without their human component . In travelling I think, we must be open and capable of just sometimes experiencing things , whatever they are or may be – a sunset alone on a deserted beach (preferably with a glass of wine in hand…) or the raw power and beauty of Nature at a lion kill on a South African reserve – or the Maya’s legacy to us across the centuries. That too, is all part of travelling. Experiencing Things that nourish something in our souls, (if we have them…. ) and that perhaps go beyond our humanity – or need for it.
But I understand perfectly where you ar coming from – and basically I agree entirely with your approach. But it would be a great pity to miss so many beautiful sights and places in the world because of expecting or knowing you just may not be comfortable with the locals…
Cheers to you both !
I totally agree there is more than the ‘human experience’ and we love deserted beaches, nature…in fact we often want to go places to be in nature and get away from humans. We prefer small towns to large cities, we love hiking. Humanity can often be too overwhelming, especially in the developing world.
But my point is that, as independent travellers (and now as slow travellers), that people/culture are usually what you take away from a destination and they have to be taken as part of the equation, at least for us. I mentioned the “professional blogger” – being greeted at the airport by your country host, whisked away to their 5 star hotel, and taken to the sites by a guide. They may ‘love’ the sites and write glowing reviews, but how accurate or complete a portrayal is it of the destination? I remember my mom when she was with her ex, a big shot for an NGO. They went to Sri Lanka and everything was taken care of and they travelled in style, always with a guide and 5 star hotels. Everywhere they went they were greeted with “welcome Mr.______”. She enjoyed Sri Lanka so much that years later, when she retired (and was no longer with Brian) she decided to go back as an independent traveller. She hated it. It was dirty, the people stared and she felt objectified as a single woman.
I understand what you say about visiting a place for its sights and attractions and I agree that the reasons we consider a destination in the first place are for these reasons. But for us, and the way we travel, we do consider the human/cultural equation. And our total overall experience usually defined by the interactions along the way.
There’s places where the human experience not such a factor and you can enjoy a place for exactly what you describe. Prague was for us a case in point. It took us a little while to fit in but after 3 months we felt comfortable with the people. Its not a place that we would go to for the people or a place we wouldn’t go to because of the people. We ended up loving Prague because it is such a beautiful place. And in this respect that’s what makes European travel so easy.
I think honestly we’re talking much the same thing Tony just looking at the same thing from different angles.
A thought-provoking post. I’m not even sure I can articulate why I travel, there are just so many reasons and rewards. I will say that the older I get, the more I appreciate slow travel. I’ve been running around the past few weeks and I’m finding it more frustrating than I used to. We’ve seen some amazing sights, but I’m left feeling harried and disconnected. One of my favorite things to do in a new country is just go to the grocery store. I want to stay a while, get the feel of the place before I move on. If I had the means, I’d love to stay a month in each place. Long enough that I don’t have to run around seeing the sights I’ll never have the chance to see again, but can just relax and do things as they come up.
Yes, I agree with you. We were in Prague 3 months before getting to Bangkok. We found that we enjoyed the city more as time went on. We’d go back. We used to rush around, spending a max of 3-4 days in one place, and that was fine then (no choice, we were both working full time back in Montreal). But now that we can take our time in one place we find its the best way to form relationships with locals and to just get the sense of a place. And the thing we dread the most about travel is packing/repacking and lugging those backpacks around. The more we can stay in one place the less we have to do all that.
uCouldn’t agree more! My most fond memories are the experiences with the people I meet, everything else is a bonus. One of my favourite travel quotes is from Albert Einstein who said: “I love to travel, but hate to arrive”. I often have the same feeling, long road trips chatting with locals and going through the same experiences is what I truly love about travel.
Thanks for the great comment Jonny.
That was a mint post!!
I left home in 2006 and have always lived as the locals do. When in Rome.
I used to go out with a lass who lived on Sathorn Rd Soi 11, exactly 10km from my dump near Praram9 MRT.
I never cared for BKK though. Far too many people. No peace. Hectic. Filthy.
Chiang Mai on the other hand….paradise.
Hey Steve, nice to hear from you! Yeah, so you know the area. You are right – but still, can’t go through Thailand without experiencing Bangkok. Just a crazy, crazy place…but probably the most exciting city in the world.
Can you hear me applauding you really loudly from Australia. Because I am. Travelling IS all about the people and the culture and that it what we revel in. Seeing simple little things that may be different or maybe similar. Talking to people and finding out how they think, feel and what they do. Getting that little bit more understanding or what a diverse world we live in, though sharing many common bonds is why we continue travelling. That is precisely what travel is about. We met a man in Alsace recently and we we spoke about him being French, but we were quickly put in our place because he is Alsatian – a very big and significant difference and this conversation led to further chats and what he liked and didn’t like about that other place “France”. Well said Frank and Lissette. PS I love Bangkok, smells, noise and funny as it, the stall holders near where we stay always remember us despite it being a year between visits. That’s nice I think. We feel like we are becoming a part of it.
Thanks Paula/Gordon, you nailed what this post was supposed to be about. And that is nice about the stall holders, its one of the immeasureables that we always take away from a trip. Yes, the wats are nice – but we still sometimes talk about a certain person we met 5 years ago that made a certain trip special.
In some ways I can see the commenter’s point, but mostly just for places within the U.S. There are certain cities and states that have attractions I’d like to visit, but I have absolutely zero interest in interacting with the people. A lot of that is due to stereotypes, preconceived notions, political beliefs, etc. When I do end up visiting those places, I hope to come across people who will change my mind about my perception of them. But if they live up to their reputation, well, I’m not disappointed since I came for the sights!
But when it comes to traveling to other countries, I think culture is a huge part of the experience. Those who travel just to see and do aren’t any less travelers than myself, but I feel like their experience is bound to be somewhat muted. Just like eating food is a muted experience for someone with no sense of smell, traveling without ANY interaction with the culture is a very different experience. I do have to say, though, that since I only get 10 paid vacation days a year, I focus on the attractions first. But the people have a huge impact on whether I end up liking a place. We really didn’t like the Romans we encountered, but loved the people in Pompeii and Sorrento. Because of that we ended up liking the first half of our trip to Italy more than our time in Rome. But since I went to Rome to see ruins and not necessarily the people, it didn’t “ruin” (pun totally intended!) our trip!
Interesting post – thanks for sharing! I’m going to keep ruminating on it, and I might find my opinion changing. 🙂
Thanks for the comment Karina – yes, maybe I should have prefaced it by specifying foreign locations. In this case the comment was left on my post on Rio. And I agree with you that sights do have something to do with picking a location to visit but is part of the equation. I’d like to see the Taj Mahal but that includes the broader picture of travelling in India – which we’d like to do but which we don’t feel ready to do just yet. Maybe after 6 months in Thailand when our immune systems have built up after eating all that street food 🙂 . What I’m saying though is that our feelings/opinions of India will be formed more from our interaction with Indians than from a day spent at the Taj Mahal. Unless of course we are taken there in a limo straight from the hotel and escorted around so we don’t have to deal with those insufferable locals 🙂 .
You enjoyed Pompeii and Sorrento more than Rome despite Rome’s ruins because, like you say, the people. And that’s exactly the point I’m trying to make on this post.