Travel: A Story as Told by Conversations and Experiences
I don't consider myself a profound communicator. I make this weird clicking sound with my tongue when talking in front of people, say "um" frequently, and rub my forehead nervously when in thought. I don't consider myself overly anxious or nervous, it's just habits people have told me that I have. I also don't like using big words. Philosophers have a habit of using big words. It makes them sound smart, at least in their eyes. Maybe it's also why so many of them are single, or at least the ones I've known. I'm that guy who replies: "Why did you have to say 'inebriated', when 'drunk' would have suited." That's why I was somewhat
discombobulated (Did you see what I did right there? Reason enough why I shouldn't use big words.) taken aback when I saw a quote of mine recently floating around the Internet.
I will hold on firm until the day I die, that travel is less about the places, and more about the conversations and experiences.
That quote comes from a post I did a few weeks ago when I was reflecting on turning 28 and traveling solo. As I eluded to earlier, there's nothing profound to it, but merely a summation of what travel has become for me. Srini Rao picked up on the quote and asked to use it in a presentation at Eye for Travel's Social Media Strategies for Travel North America. Srini's presentation honed in on the importance of travel brands mastering the art of digital storytelling. The quote spurned a discussion on Twitter and other travel blogs about whether travel really is less about the places themselves, and more about the conversations and experiences. You can see Srini's full presentation on the art of digital storytelling below.
What are your hobbies? Probably drinking, certainly eating, and possibly golf, writing, hiking, shopping, music, and much more. What is it that persuades you to keep going back to the same watering hole, restaurant, golf course, or coffee shop? Maybe it has a particularly delightful shape to it or has a pretty rose garden? Um (See above for bad habits), doubtful. So why do you go? Perhaps, it was where you had your best date. Or, maybe the bartender knows exactly how to pour the perfect Guinness every time. Or, there's a particular older man that sits at the corner of the coffee shop and tells profound stories of living in other countries. It's the conversations and experiences that stick out. It's for this reason, that when telling stories, we don't typically begin by saying: "Do you remember that place...", but rather: "Do you remember that time..."
I'm not taking away from the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Galapagos Islands, or any other infamous place around the world. However, what I am saying is that conversations and experiences maximize the destination. And if you find that they don't, then are you really traveling? I find it quite interesting some of the "travelers" I meet on the road. I don't always understand why some would go through the trouble and expenses of visiting another country, only to do the same things in another country that they would do at home.
If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.-James Michener
Many years down the road, I hope I'll look back at the last seven months of travel as one of the most important moments of my life. I feel like I've fit a lifetime of memories and experiences into just a few months. I hope I'll be that old guy at the end of the bar who buys a few young travelers a pint and begins with: "And then there was that one time...". The great thing about experiences, as compared with places, is that they are solely yours. While I can name tons of places from the last few months, I would much rather reminisce on experiences. It's taking a 13-state week-long cross-country road trip, seeing my first Pacific Ocean sunset, feeding monkeys in the jungle, eating one of the best cheese steaks I've ever had in the middle of the Southwestern U.S. desert, and nodding to Pedro (from Napoleon Dynamite) as he walks into a 24-hour cafe in New York City.
And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.-Abraham Lincoln
So what is travel to me? It's a story - and not just any story, but a really good story, which is still being written. One set of travel experiences ends this week when I leave Costa Rica, which only means it's time for another set of experiences to begin.
What is travel to you?