Over the years, I’ve come to realise that long-term seasoned travellers, especially in Asia, don’t brag about going to famous tourist places like the Eiffel Tower or Lisbon or Greece — they brag about going to totally random unknown places that you would never find in a guide book, places you could barely find on a map, places that few people even know about.
I’m all for exploring, but to me it almost seems like it’s a traveller’s competition; bragging rights over whose been to the most remote place and stayed in the crappiest hostel that cost US$2 a night, a pissing contest over whose taken some shitty train to some tiny village in some war-torn country and lived to tell the tale…. And quite frankly, I don’t see any great glory in it.
For example, here are some recent conversations I’ve had:
SOME GUY: ‘Oh, you just came back from Thailand? That’s nice. I just spent a week biking through the Golden Triangle, I crossed the border through Cambodia and took a 7-hour bus full of chickens and pigs up to a holy mountain in Myanmar where we spent a weekend at a monastery where the monks took a vow of silence. It was awesome.’
Or, here’s another example:
SOME GIRL: ‘Oh yeah, Bali is nice, I guess, if you like meat-market tourist traps. I on the other hand just spent a week in a remote village in Burma. As someone who is really interested in humanitarianism and human rights, I was skeptical about going to a place that has such a brutal regime. But when I saw the people, people who lived on less than US$1 a day, and saw the beauty of their smiles and simplicity of their lifestyle, I knew that avoiding such places would only isolate the people of Burma more and more from the international community.’
Look, whatever. If you actually get so bored with the world that you have to constantly seek out some horrible remote place to visit, just so that you can brag about it to other people and show them what a morally superior traveller you are, then go right ahead. But to me, travel is not about proving anything to anybody, especially since I came from a so-called ‘developing nation’ and have seen what the third world is like. If you like the crazy city life of Tokyo, fine. If you enjoy the resort life of Phuket, cool. If you are happy to spend a week in Bali, no problem. What’s wrong with that? I mean, does a person really need to take a boat up a river in Sumatra guided by men in penis sheaths and eat roasted armadillo eyeballs in a forest in order to have ‘real adventure’ and be a ‘real traveller’?
Give me a break!