Recently, I finally realised what I like most about travel. It was a strange epiphany to suddenly come to a good two years after starting a travel blog but it was enlightening none the less. It wasn’t a lightning bolt moment by any stretch of the imagination either; more like a gentle elbow from your mate sitting next to you when you fall asleep in class. Something you appreciate.
I haven’t had the opportunity to travel much lately and to circumvent my lack of adventure I like to talk to people who have had the chance. I find it informative and it helps quench my need to understand the world- for a small amount of time anyway. It helps shape my bucket list of destinations I would like to visit. It’s also therapeutic for the other person as it enables them to brag about their exploits unashamedly without being judged or told to stop showing off.
Whilst at work a short time ago, I witnessed a conversation between two people comparing notes on recent trips they had just done. Both take different approaches to their travel so I was curious to see how the exchange would play out. For example, one travels comfortably, preferring an element of relaxation for an extra dollar or two. He knows what he likes but is willing to experience as much as possible while away. The other regularly flies with airlines that prominently feature on lists of top five airlines that you should avoid based on their price and not their questionable safety and service records. How he has not experienced any major, mid-flight incident is a mystery but it explains how he is able to travel as often as he does. Credit to the man, he is a risk taker.
The destination they were reminiscing about was France. My knowledge of France is restricted to croissants, the Tour de France, Gerard Depardieu and Zinedine Zidane’s head-butt in the World Cup Final in 2006, so when they began voicing their opinions and spouting off locations in Paris like they were common knowledge, I was a little lost.
My knowledge of the French language is even worse, limited to putting “Le” in front of words and hoping for the best. If I am going really well I’ll merge French with Italian and create a whole new language- something I am confident is probably mildly offensive to both nations. Listening to people talk about France makes me wish I’d paid more attention to my year 7 French teacher, Mrs Brown, while at high school. In my defence, if she had shown me pictures of places like Palais Garnier, Les Catacombes and the Moulin Rouge (cheers Google), I’m sure I’d have been better off.
“Did you do the Eiffel Tower? Of course you did. What did you think?”
“I actually quite enjoyed it.”
“Nah. Too busy. Tourists everywhere.”
While this opening remark didn’t tell me much more than that there were tourists in Paris, I was still curious about France as a destination and wanted to hear more. I listened on.
“I love the food in France. The restaurant food is delicious.”
“Actually we hated it. We preferred the food in Italy.”
“Really? You’re crazy, French food is the best.”
“Well we didn’t think so.”
I was beginning to notice a trend in the conversation now. It was chalk and cheese. What one loved, the other hated and vice versa. I tried to interject and tell them this but they were so baffled with each other that they took no notice.
“Where did you stay?”
“Not sure of the suburb but we could see the Eiffel Tower from our hotel.”
“Wow. That must have been pricey.”
“Actually we found it quite reasonable. About $200 a night.”
“Well that’s out of our price range isn’t it, Baz. I usually stay here [insert the name of a French suburb where the accommodation options are considerably cheaper than $200 a night but also considerably further away from the main attractions of Paris that most would deem practicable].”
They both looked to me for a response. I avoided any input and reminded them that I was, “…just a fan and an observer.”
The conversation continued along the following lines:
How was the cleanliness?
What was public transport like?
Would you return?
Listening to this conversation, other than being incredibly entertained, affirmed something to me; no matter where you go, someone will love it and someone else will hate it. I can write a review of a location and someone will find it useful, someone else will agree with it and another will think that it is a load of shit. No two people are the same. The thing is you will never know until you experience it.
In the past I had thought that the best part about travelling was seeing new places and new cultures. Having the ability to learn about things you may never have considered and truly becoming a citizen of the world- the stereotypical, sometimes nauseating proclamations that you would find on inspirational posters or a Facebook meme.
Before you all rip down those posters stuck above your desk, the above paragraph is not untrue. Experiencing new places and cultures is a profound way of understanding and learning about the world, nothing will ever change in that department. It will always be entertaining and memorable.
But it is the differing opinions that I realised I love most about travel. It creates opinion and people are passionate in those opinions. There is no fence sitting. Everyone critically reviews their trips- both at home and abroad- and come to different conclusions about what they like and dislike.
Basically, it creates conversations between people- something we need more of.
Wayward Tip: don’t dismiss a destination based purely on what someone else has told you. Take it on board, do your research and come to an educated decision on your own.