Lately, I’ve been reading through traveler extraordinaire Chris Guillebeau’s The Art of Nonconformity, an inspiring multipurpose blog encouraging people to live, work, and travel outside the box. With posts like “Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel Around the World” and the downloadable “A Brief Guide to World Domination,” Guillebeau seems to have found that elusive je ne sais quoi that allows him to jaunt off to far-flung destinations at a moment’s notice (being debt-free and having operated several successful small businesses being a part of that je ne sais quoi), and he’s willing to share the knowledge of being your own boss, traveling the world, and improving our planet to anyone who’s open to non-conventional wisdom. Each one, teach one.
Anyway, I recently read a post titled “Developing Your Own Philosophy of Travel,” in which Guillebeau describes his motivation for and styles of travel. His current goal is to visit every country on Earth (nearly 200 sovereign nations) before his 35th birthday, and he’s well on his way to accomplishing that goal via round-the-world plane tickets, finagled stop-overs, and a rainbow of sleeping arrangements – from airport floors in Texas to fleabags in Ulaan Bataar (that’s Mongolia, folk) to the overpriced Le Meridian in Malta. And he got me thinking about my own travel philosophies, those objectives, habits, rules, and stimuli that drive me incessantly to the nearest international airport whenever time and income allow.
- As I’ve mentioned countless times on this blog, I’m drawn most strongly to Latin American cultures with a very visible African element, particularly in terms of music and dance: the Spanish Caribbean and Brazil most notably. I also like cities with large Afro-Diasporic populations – London, Paris, Toronto, Montreal, and the States-side stalwarts NYC, DC, ATL, and MIA. Basically, I like to see myself reflected in the people when I travel. And I like to travel under the radar, where if I don’t speak, people don’t know I’m not from there.
- That doesn’t mean I limit myself to the lands of salsa and samba. Within the next five years, I’m trying to hit Mozambique, South Africa, Ethiopia, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, and Tanzania in the Motherland. Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Turkey. Hong Kong. Australia. Papua New Guinea. India! And, of course, wherever a cheap last-minute plane ticket takes me.
- I’m a true urbanist: the bigger the city, the better. Give me a week in Sydney over a week in the Outback any day. Not that I’m averse to hiking or outdoor activities (I quite enjoy rafting), but the humthumpbuzz of an urban center stimulates more of my senses than the whistletweetshush of the campo. I enjoy museums and mass transit and people watching at the mall. I would, however, make exceptions for natural wonders like Ayers Rock, Victoria Falls, and Antarctica.
- I like to spend an entire week or ten days in a city (more, if possible). It’s a great way to see sights and stake your claim on a neighborhood or local routine for a short while. I like getting lost among the crowds and making my way “home” or getting to know the waitstaff at my corner breakfast nook. After a few days, I start to notice commuting patterns, discover hidden delicacies, and sometimes even get to indulge in a nice romantic fling (I have, in Paris, Havana, and London).
- I don’t like hostels. I’d rather stay in a 1-star matchbox that’s reasonably clean than at party-central for a gaggle of 20-something, boozy backpackers. No thanks. There’s also CouchSurfing.
- I haven’t done my first round-the-world trek yet, but I’m planning one soon. I could be an airline network loyalist, racking up the frequent flier miles with SkyTeam or Star Alliance, or I could go with Airtreks or Air Brokers to get the cheapest deal (as low as US$1700, taxes included). Either way, I get geet (as they say in Atlanta) whenever I think about jetting ahead of or against the rotation of the Earth.
- I try never to check a bag. My size-13 tennis shoes often hinder that little plan, especially on smaller planes in South America.
- On trips to developing countries, I try not to take photographs of people, especially folk doing heavy lifting or unpleasant drudge-work. I mean, I’d be pissed if somebody snapped a Polaroid of me struggling to balance a 50-pound basket of trout on my head. Don’t take a picture, you bastid…help me carry this!
- I am a travel crackhead: I’ve been known to spend my rent money on a plane ticket. Not recommended (but I don’t regret it).
- I’m usually a loner; I like to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I do enjoy trips with my friends or other travel companions, but mostly when they’re also experienced travelers and are keen on doing their own thing for part of the trip. We don’t have to be together every waking minute: we can spend our afternoons making independent memories that we can share with each other later at dinner. Besides, there’s too much inadvertent cock-blocking that can happen when you travel with other people.
My travel philosophy, in two words: Do you. Cuz I’m damn sure gon do me.
What’s your travel philosophy?