We are coming to a quick conclusion that to enjoy travel you must do it on your terms. That means you don’t necessarily have to follow the books, or follow the tours, or pay for every package, or fight the crowds or shed those tears of boredom visiting monuments that really don’t mean anything to you. Travel needs awareness, it helps to be aware of who you are and what it is that you want to accomplish for the day. You could be lazy or one of those freaks(nothing but respect) that gets up at 4AM and needs to accomplish 50 things by the end of the day. What is it that interests you and what is it that is feasible within your budget. Are your plans solely for a future slide show? Or are you really inquisitive about the plan for the day. Do you want to be surprised or do you know exactly what to expect? Are you really interested in standing in those long lines?
Much of history is sad and the monuments which may be architecturally fantastic bring nothing but sad emotions. Yet why do we keep visiting them? We did that just the other day-the Korean War Memorial in Seoul which is a monument to the horrors of war, we were saddened by the history but to be frank our mood was great because the kids ran around the tanks and planes and had a great time playing. Why should I set them into a somber mood? Why not have them just play? Why not just do things on our own individual terms.
Our time in Seoul is hardly a Korean experience but we have found great richness in being comfortable with the idea of just staying at one spot. We got to experience life like the locals, we were treated like family and we have inherently expanded our family of friends. We didn’t visit many of the tourist sites-our travel within the city was prioritized by what’s easily accessible, is there room for our children to run about, will we get a good feel of different Korean demographics, will there be good and genuine local food and was it low cost or free? Our budget constraints had us avoid many fee based theme centers but we managed to make the most of the local parks, street vendors, a walk to a stadium, watching the para olympics, intentionally getting lost a few times and just following the locals get around their daily lives. We did this on our terms and the result was that we are very satisfied.
Here are some considerations when reading a travel guide. It helps to be aware of who exactly wrote the book? Is it written by someone who is paid to fill out the pages with destination guides and just shares the result of spending an inordinate amount of time visiting mostly historical sites whether they like it or not. They seldom put in their emotional responses to these places. That’s just left to travelers to find out the hard way. And I don’t care how fantastic a monument maybe, if I suffered during the process it always leaves a bad taste.
I am finding that blogs by locals are a much better way to go. Why is it that in every city you don’t see many of the locals enjoying their day at the tourist spots? Or the historical monuments? Do you do that in your own town or city? The locals are usually hanging out with each other in fun neighborhoods, going about their business of daily living but also trying to enjoy a good quality life. Why not just follow the locals around? We like it.
Enjoy your travels and if you can, try to do it on your own terms and talk to the locals. I promise you will have a much better time.