Travel Philosophy

**The following was written 6 years ago at the start of this blog. While much of it holds true still today, some of Nate’s views on travel has adapted over the years**

Go to kayak.com. Open up another web tab and choose a world map from Google Images. Find a country off of the world map who’s name catches your eye and type it into kayak.com. Check airfare prices. Continue to do so until you find the cheapest. Go there.

This is how I’ve planned my last two vacations, and is more than likely how I’ll plan many more to come. The last time I did this I wound up with the results: Iceland- May 2011, and now Peru- November 2011.

What really attracts me to go somewhere is the question: Why on earth would you want to go there? Using this method of finding airfare, I find that the result often sparks this question.

That question was the first thing out of my family’s and friend’s mouths when I told them that I was preparing for a trip to Southern Argentina. There was something about heading to South America that intrigued me. I had been to Europe in the past (and believe me I have a strong desire to return) but I had never been to South America. In fact, I’ve never known a single person who has, nor was even considering the possibility of making the long trek South, and this was, and still is, a big part of my attraction to South America. In a way, the trip itself was a mystery.

I don’t really like the idea of being a tourist. I was raised traveling around the country to different national parks, taking guided group tours, collecting the national park stamps in the stamp books, staying in large hotels, and always being around other touristy people. There isn’t anything I dislike more than large groups of people on vacation, or even large groups of people in general. It’s the way people shuffle along, bumping into each other, running to the other side of the boat in order to snap a picture of the whale and nearly pushing somebody overboard in order to do it. Have you ever heard that sound that seems to resonate from a group of people without them knowing? Of course you have. It’s the sound of a rather large group of people talking at the same time. A mixture of different pitched words being spoken at all different times and all different speeds. A clutter of human interaction is what it is. It’s the worst sound in the world.

For those reasons I try to no longer do anything that I would consider “touristy” when I’m on vacation. Of course if I’m in a completely new country then I’m going to stop at the “must-sees” (like the Vatican in Italy, for example). But for me, traveling is all about culture. When I travel to another country I want to live as a local would in the part of the country in which I’m visiting. I want to experience that place as a local would normally experience everyday life– go where they would go, eat the same foods as them, only carry around as much money as they typically would. This is to say,  if I were to spend time with a  culture that is used to living in huts made of sticks and clay, then I would very much rather live by their side in those huts as opposed to staying in a resort and in doing so, flaunting that I consider myself better than them (pure insanity). Some people don’t understand this. Some people ask why I’d ever want to go to such a place in the first place. Those people never learn of the world around them. Those people take the simple things in life for granted. Those people never truly live. I’m convinced that these kinds of experiences create great human beings.

In the end, those of us who step out of our comfort zones in a country and with a culture of which we are unfamiliar, are the ones who obtain the knowledge of the world. In my opinion, this is what traveling is all about.

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29 thoughts on “Travel Philosophy”

  1. Really lovely words and a worthy goal to strive for.

    I find myself doing touristy stuff but I do try to find a mix in that kind of stuff and getting immersed in the culture. I just find it’s hard to do when you can only visit a place for a short amount of time.

    1. You make a good point about amount of time to be had while visiting another country. I’m actually going to be breaking my own philosophy slightly in a couple weeks when I head to Iceland. I have a couple touristy things planned, but because I’ll only be spending 5 days there and want to see as much as possible (who knows how long it’ll be before I return!). In this case I would argue there is nothing wrong with doing touristy things. But at the same time, in my defense, I chose to go to Iceland in the winter when the amount of other tourists visiting will be held down to a minimum!
      Thanks for your comments!

  2. Hah …sounds like me. Although I think I may take things a bit farther, if not too far. Last few years have been places like Afghanistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Myanmar, Burkina Faso, etc, etc.

    Good article. Keep goin’
    John

    1. Thanks for the comment John. Wow, you definitely take the philosophy a little farther than I do. Maybe one day I’ll get there, but at the moment there are other places in the world that I want to see more than those countries. I tend to stick to places that offer a vast wilderness waiting to be explored with the least amount of human contact possible. Thanks for checking out my blog.

      Cheers,
      Nate

      1. Thats how I was for years …the “least amount of human contact possible”. Than I switched over to the most amount of human contact posiible …that wasn’t associated with the western world. A totally different story there. Have fun in Nepal if you make it, and I would highly recommend it. A great country where you can interact with as much foreign culture as you can stand, or head up into the mountains and get away from it as much as you want. A great little country nestled in some great little mountains… John

      2. I guess when I say “the least amount of human contact possible” I really mean “the least amount of tourist contact possible.” I was lucky enough to spend 4 days of my two weeks in the mountains of Patagonia, Argentina with a small community that literally lives in the middle of nowhere. These were some people that have just about nothing: they get 6 hours of generated electricity per day and pump all water from the river– yet they were some of the most happy people I have ever met and seemed completely satisfied with their lives (I’ll be doing a full in depth post on them in a couple days). They changed my life forever and now I’m all about learning about and living with new cultures.

      3. You sound pretty much exactly like me Nate. All throughout Africa I saw the “Money does not equal Happiness” equation. Honestly, I saw exactly the opposite. No electricity, no plumbing, hardly any food. I even found a place where they did not use, did not want, and did not know what money was …well, they did know what money was …toilet paper. Right along the Niger River in Mali.
        In my opinion, these people are, well, I’m at a loss for words really. They know they don’t have it good by western standards, they know they will probably die a lot younger most, but their attitude is to take that little time they have and make the best of it. Really changed my life too. Makes one think…

        Saw your response above and laughed. I would highly recommend places like Ethiopia, Sudan and Mali to someone like you.

      4. Yeah I hear you. Most places like that want nothing to do with the Western world, and the more I travel abroad the more I tend to agree with them but at the same time I am thankful for what I am fortunate enough to have as well. I’ll have to look into traveling to these places. I assume you have some blog posts from there? I’ll have to do some digging around your blog.

  3. I agree with your philosophy.

    I want to point out this line… “This is to say, if I were to spend time with a poor culture that is used to living in huts made of sticks and clay, then I would very much rather live by their side in those huts as opposed to staying in a resort and in doing so, flaunting that I consider myself better than them (pure insanity). ”
    I know what you mean, but you may have just insulted someone else’s culture by calling it poor. It’s a rich culture with a poor economy maybe? Or maybe nothing about it is poor, maybe it’s just different and they place value in very different things…?

    Something to consider when trying to pair the words describing your philosophy with the philosophy itself.
    🙂
    Beautiful travel philosophy.

    1. Hi Hannah,

      I’ve actually edited this very line multiple times in hopes to make it so that it doesn’t insult another culture. Thanks to you, another edit is certainly called for. Thanks very much for bringing this to my attention,

      Nate

  4. I agree that to travel and travel often, you have to make it a budgetary priority (in our case, my husband and I don’t buy as much as the average person in terms of clothes or furniture or decorations for our house, but we spend way more than the average person on plane tickets).

    I do, however, like to see some touristy sites (Notre Dame was one of my favorite places in Paris). I get great joy out of watching movies (on planes of course) and thinking “Oooh! I’ve been there!”, or reading books and being able to picture clearly where the characters are standing when they’re walking past Westminster Abby or they take a trip to the Grand Canyon.

    1. Hey Holly,
      I will say that some touristy spots are definitley worth seeing. JUst yesterday someone was actually telling me that I HAVE to go see Notre Dame. I agree, that is a pretty cool feeling. Especially when you see an advertisment from the very same spot you were standing. Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog.
      Nate

  5. Oh I want to travel too! I’m just 16 and my family is doing barely as it is to and couldn’t possibly afford any travel anywhere fast. But hey still like travelling and will hopefully have the opportunity for that in the future.

    Only thing I do get a little afraid of is the prospect being stuck out there somewhere in country you don’t know the language of, all alone and with barely any money… Oh that and just even booking hotels and stuff. Is it better to check out all the best and cheap places, restaurants and fun things to do beforehand or go on spontaneously and ask others? 🙂

    1. Hey there!
      This is a great question. I would say: It depends on if you are traveling alone or not, and also to where you are going. If I travel alone, I do book hotels/hostels before I go, just so I’m guarranteed a place to stay. If I travel with others, I like to leave it pen so that we could enjoy finding somewhere to stay that we both agree on while we’re there.
      Hopefully you’ll get to decide on this for yourself soon enough!
      Nate

  6. I’m with you on the South America urge! I visited Santiago, Chile in May and absolutely loved it! The fact that it was not Europe (although as you say there is nothing wrong with Europe) is what make it that much more exciting. I hope to visit the southern regions of Argentina at some point in the next five years as well. Love the travel philosophy as well, by the way, I’m right there with you!

  7. I totally hear you.I’ve been a lone traveler for quite some time and guess what? I love it! I’m planning for Iran and Sri Lanka next year and everyone’s wondering what the hell I want to be there for, especially being a girl and alone. Hah! Little do they know what they’re missing 😉

    1. Absolutely. I love that “Why the heck do you want to go there?” question. It makes me laugh every time. But until those who ask that question take that first step out of their comfort zone and go for themselves, they’ll never understand our answer.

      Have a great trip, looking forward to reading about it on your blog.

      Nate

  8. I have always enjoyed going to places not on the main stream map. In the 90;s it was Indonesia. Now its Tonga. I love swimming with whales.

    I enjoyed your blog because you love to travel and do it with passion.

    1. I find that those places offer great experiences. Not only with the location itself, but with the local people. I can see why you would love that so much, the photographs are incredible!

      Thanks for stopping by my blog
      Nate

  9. I absolutely love your travel philosophy. Every time I see a map of the world I find a new place I want to go- often for completely bizarre reasons (like, I want to go to Montenegro because it’s the name of a character from a TV show).

    I think it’s great that you are so adventurous and willing to completely live like a local – that’s always my aim, but very rarely does it happen that I do. Have to push myself out there and be a bit more adventurous.

    1. Hey Akiwiinlondon,
      Thanks for your kind words about my travel philosophy! I find that some of the best places offering the best experiences are those that draw you to them when you simply find them on a map of the world. Living like a local is a great thing to do while traveling if you can. Not only do you get to see and experience the country for what it truly is, most of the time you probably save money by staying away from the touristy stuff. Its a win-win!

      Keep traveling and sharing your experiences with the rest of us in the blogging community! Thanks for stopping by my blog as well,

      – Nate

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