Friday, March 5, 2010

Where the Streets Have No Name

At pretty much any given moment, I want to travel somewhere. All I have to do is read an article or hear a story about someone's experience in a far-off locale, and that restless envy creeps up my spine. I long to take off and experience it for myself.

I would go pretty much anywhere at any time, but there's only one problem - having the money and time to do this. For most people it's just not practical to take off on a plane somewhere without having time to plan and money to pay for it. This is a rather crushing yet constant notion that plagues me, and I'm sure many other travel-lovers, like a hand on your shoulder pushing back your momentum and preventing you from moving no matter how hard you pump your legs.

However, this post entitled "5 ways to travel more with less" provides some great tips about changing your perspective on travel and what it means, and also ways to make it more realistic financially. I like that the author, Annabel Candy (whose blog can be found here), stresses that travel doesn't have to include some faraway, exotic beach; one can travel to places very close to home and get the same feeling of adventure and mobility.

In fact, I think most people don't explore the places they live often enough, if at all. I've had conversations about this with my mom, about how we never visit museums and tourist attractions in our own city even though they are right on our doorstep. I have lived in this province for over 20 years and there are whole huge sections of it I have never been to. Just last summer, my mom, sister and I traveled to Pictou, Bridgewater and Lahave within the span of one long weekend and all of these places were new to me. Who knew there was a cute (and affordable) little ferry to carry you across the harbour to Lahave?! I didn't, and I was shocked by that; frankly kind of ashamed.

I know when I move to Vancouver, I plan on doing as much exploring in that city as possible - I want to see every nook and cranny that I can. Sure, I'd love to go to Thailand or California, but I'm sure I will find as many surprises and charms sticking closer to home, and lord knows I'd spend a heck of a lot less money.

There are many places within Nova Scotia, and the other Atlantic provinces, that I have always wanted to see and have yet to. And now that I'm planning on moving away I almost have a stronger drive to see them now because who knows when I'll be back again. I'll have to try my best to play tourist this summer I guess. (It always goes to show that you never appreciate things until you lose them, or are faced with losing them. Such is life).

I also love Annabel's tips regarding slowing down when you visit a place. I totally agree with her that a trip can often become a hyper-scheduled list of "to do's" and becomes more about crossing as many items off as possible rather than absorbing the essence and character of a place. In most cases you won't find this essence through visiting big, expensive, crowded tourist attractions (and in my opinion many of these have, unfortunately, become tacky tourist "traps", which can make them more nauseating than awesome). Where you will find it is off the beaten path, in the quieter nooks and crannies where the locals hang out. You often find the most charming and unexpected surprises if you just walk around a place, with no particular agenda or timeline. I mean, isn't the whole point of travel experiencing the novel, unexpected and thrilling?

Now, I like to see big-time tourist attractions as much as the next person - it would seem criminal to go all the way to Paris, for example, only to skip the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Sacre Couer. I also am possessive of a personality that thrives on structure - scheduling, planning, knowing where I'm going and when. However, there is something freeing about throwing at least a bit of that out the window, tempering one or two big attractions with a few quieter sites, and not having a heart attack if you find the hours of the day dwindling and your "list" not being checked off in order (or at all). Let's be honest here: most of the time things don't go according to how you plan them anyway so why get so hung up on that?

I still have a constant drive to travel and still have a huge list of far-off, exotic locales that I want to visit and that's not going to change. And I still plan to visit these places when I have the time and money, even if that's not anytime soon. This post just reminded me to not be discouraged by a lack of funds and free time and to keep some perspective in terms of traveling.
When you think about it, we're all traveling all the time in one way or another, even if sometimes it's only in our heads.

3 comments:

Stoodert said...

Random poster here; found your blog through 20SB!

I agree that we all shouldn't take for granted the wonders found right under our noses where we live; I'm STILL exploring Los Angeles, CA after living here for 5 years!

I've only traveled to another country once, but found Frommer's guidebook to be pretty helpful.

Kim H said...

Thanks for the tip! Actually come to think of it I should get a Vancouver guidebook before I head out there. I would love to visit LA, I'm jealous that you live there lol. Thanks for your comment!

Stoodert said...

Random poster here; found your blog through 20SB!

I agree that we all shouldn't take for granted the wonders found right under our noses where we live; I'm STILL exploring Los Angeles, CA after living here for 5 years!

I've only traveled to another country once, but found Frommer's guidebook to be pretty helpful.

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