**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.