While traveling, my brother, Jim,a retired History professor at Whitworth College, asked me why I traveled, and accompanied it with an article from ReVision Magazine, Vol.32. No. 1, titled "Transformative Travel" by Susan L. Ross. My guess is that he wanted me to read the article to see if it struck a responsive chord with me. It did not. Perhaps her opening line colored my view of the rest of her article because she started with:
"This article explores how travel, when approached in a conscious way, can be a widely available, individually tailored, and enjoyable way to gain self awareness, spiritual experience, and an expansion of consciousness."
The only travelers I have seen that are not traveling in a conscious way are the drunk or drugged out people you see in the cities throughout the US and some other parts of the world. Maybe they, too, are living in their own conscious way.
Dr. Ross’ orientation is in the area of recreational therapy for folks with post traumatic stress and adventure therapy with an orientation to traveling to sacred sites to cultivate ancient rituals, relationships with living energy.and partnerships with elders. I am sure some travelers would recognize that their travels fit into these categories.
So if none of Dr. Ross’s categories of "Transformative Travel" give me that "Aha moment!" then I think, why do I travel?
In reflecting on this question, I reviewed some of my travel blog reports, thought about where, when, and how I like to travel. Here are some of my reasons for doing the travel I do:
Try something new and different,
Gain perspective about other cultures compared to mine,
- Because I can.
The mental challenges include figuring out where I want to travel and setting up an itinerary so my spouse knows where I am going and how to contact me. Of course, while traveling I make lots of changes to this plan as opportunities arise—-and keep her posted on my changes. Planning for your travels is an integral part of your travel experience. Many times your travel is over even before you return home. As John Steinbeck said in Travels with Charley: In Search of America:
"Who has not known a journey to be over and dead before the traveler returns? The reverse is also true: many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased."
I like to prove to myself that I can navigate my way through territory I have yet to explore, and
find food, shelter, and travel in places where no English is spoken using phrases from guide books, pantomime, and recently, iPhone translators the locals have, are challenges I enjoy.
The physical challenges include taking some adventures ranging from:
- riding zip lines in Chile and Nepal,
- climbing volcanos in Chile, Washington Oregon and California,
- shooting white water rapids on the Pacuare River in Costa Rica, California and Washington
- snorkeling in SE Asia and Latin America,
- riding camels in Mongolia, horses in Peru, and elephants in Thailand,
- taking amazing hikes like the Pacific Crest Trail, Circuit "W" in Patagonia, Hua Shan, Great Wall of China, Leaping Tiger Gorge in China, Cordillera Blanca Mountains in Peru, and the Great Baikal Trail in Russia.
- boating the Amazon, Mekong, Perfume, Mae Kok, Chao Phraya, Kwai, Yangtze, Li and Yulong Rivers,
- biking from Danang to Hoi An and short mototaxi rides in the cities and islands,
- riding trains, boats, and buses,
- getting lost and then finding your way,
- traveling during a revolts or coups,
- eating unusual foods like durian, monkey brains, snakes, tarantulas, snails, fried crickets and larvas,
- documenting my adventure travels by creating videos of my trips—this is also mental. Here is my website that contains short video clips and photos: https://sites.google.com/site/huntforvideos/
I am always curious to try anything new and different whether is is a place, an experience, food, modes of transportation, especially when it comes to doing it in a different culture than my own. I enjoy going to countries that are not similar to my own which is why I like going to SE Asia and Latin America over Europe. I shy away from Africa since the public transportation system seems fraught with uncertainty and danger as does travel to some of the Middle Eastern countries.
Rather than flying from one city to the next, and then getting a taxi to the downtown area, I prefer using the local transportation whether it is a light rail, metro, bus, jitney, or mototaxi. Taxi rides for me are very infrequent even though cheap in many countries I visit. I find that the Lonely Planet guides provide some of the best information on the various modes of transportation available when going to or leaving cities.
I enjoy staying at the budget hotels as described in the Lonely Planet guides or in hostels with dorms and other travelers from different countries, usually European countries like the UK, Holland, or Germany, Australians, Chinese and Japanese. I encounter very few Americans in the hotels and hostels I stay in. The physical challenges listed above give you some idea of the types of different activities I like to try. Here are some of the interesting and inexpensive places I have stayed:
HCMC, Vietnam 2014
I have had lots of different foods both in restaurants and street food that the locals seem to enjoy. I try some of the spicy food, but if it is too spicy, I start hiccuping so I end up piling on more rice or noodles or swilling cold beer to soothe my taste buds. I have sampled fried crickets, larvae, tarantulas, snake, snails, deer, rabbit, sausages of all kinds, known and unknown fruits and vegetables.
Gain Perspective About Cultures Other Than Mine
With each culture I visit, I increasingly realize that ours is not better than theirs, but rather different. I gain a greater understanding of my own culture by viewing other cultures. We could learn from some of their cultural and public services and they could learn some from our culture as well.
While doing some home stays with families in Peru, Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal and India, I got to see first hand how individuals, families and communities interact with each other, their neighboring communities and tourists. In most of these home stays there were few outside influences since they were out of range of TVs, radios and in most cases roads. As a result they found ways to work, support, and entertain each other. Festivals and other gatherings were occasions for them to arrange marriages for their "eligible" children and maintain relationships with neighboring villagers that may help each in the future. I also enjoy encountering other festivals in my travels.
Monk initiation, Myanmar 2004
Room to Read, Nagdi, Nepal 2002
Vicos school, Peru 2005
Salvador, Brazil 2012
Cheers in Yangshuo, China 2014
Ollantaytambo festival, Peru 2005
Black Hat festival, Bhutan 2000
Black Hat festival, Bhutan 2000
I value the kindness of strangers as they help me along my journey by giving me directions, treating me to meals or drinks, giving me rides, offering me places to stay, discussing their lives and dreams, and so on, even if sometimes, we do not have any common language.
Now that I am retired, I am fortunate to have the time, money, health to travel as much as I can, as long as I can. Also, my spouse, Tani, still enjoys her work and supports my solo travels.
I enjoy solo traveling because I do not have to coordinate with anyone on where to go, how to go, how long to stay in any one spot, and also because it makes me more open to reaching out to others, both locals and other international travelers.
To maximize my travels, I rely on frequent flyer mile programs to fund my air travel to overseas. I enjoy the challenge of seeking out ways to rack up mileage by "churning credit cards and other mileage offers.
Once in country, I focus on local transportation modes both as a way to save money and to observe and interact with people. Oftentimes I am the only "Westerner" on the boat, bus or metro. My trips of usually 2 months end up costing around $3,000 to $5,000 which is about what a two week vacation to SE Asia, Latin America or Hawaii would be excluding food and local transportation.
My trips would even cost less if I did not spend as much as I do on food, but I am a foodie and enjoy eating well. Also, when I am at home, my daily average dining and grocery expenses average $28 per day compared to $35–38 per day when I travel. My home average normal food cost of $28 per day would be $1,680 for two months. If I were to back out this amount from my 2 month trips, these trips would then just average between $1,322 and $3,320.
We are all on a life’s journey and how I enjoy traveling may not be enjoyable for others. With that in mind, I like to refer to this Walt Whitman poem from Son of Myself, section 46 that points that out:
"Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.
It is not far, it is within reach,
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,
Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land."
Cheers, Ollantaytambo, Peru 2005
Next up, a return to Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico where I will do some more hikes in the area and describe them in this blog. My next overseas adventure, in the Spring, may take me to the Philippines for lots of island hopping by boat and possibly plane.