WHY WE TRAVEL | Part 2: Culture guilt & being in transition

in Travels

If you’re one of the selfie stick haters, fear not you are not alone. John Ruskin already bashed on the mentality of “modern travellers”, in the 19th century. The English critic found the attitude of modern travellers unacceptable, as he felt that people just looked at things and places and never actually thought properly about them. People rarely stop and wonder what they’re truly curious about.

Culture guilt 

Alain de Botton, again, claims that we experience some sort of “culture guilt”, whereby travel guidebooks distort our vision of curiosity, because they make us think everything is already known. Everyone keeps looking at their guidebooks, but nobody looks around and enquires about another statue or building that was not mentioned in that same guide. We just look – we never observe, think or look further. We feel like we haven’t “seen all there is to see” purely because we missed out on a building or two. On the other hand we feel like we know a place simply because we’ve visited all the important sights and museums – but didn’t stop for one single moment to observe that city’s lifestyle, its people, its foods and customs.

John Ruskin puts forward an interesting suggestion. He asks us to put away our cameras, and asks us to draw instead of taking photos. He believed that drawing makes you look at things properly – and that you can observe the beauty of things the way it should be. We shouldn’t just look, we should notice and observe. It is probably the attitude with which we travel that makes a difference – where fulfilment lies not so much on the destination, but more on what the traveller has come to see.

The charm of being in transition 

Many of us look at the airport stage of our travels as the burden we must carry in order to get to our final destination. We tend to forget that being on the way has its own charm. There is a certain excitement that can only be felt queuing up for boarding, passport in hand, knowing you’re about to go somewhere where nobody knows your name, with new adventures ahead, places to be seen, experiences and emotions to be felt. It is liberating to be a stranger amongst strangers. Ever wondered why we’re more experimental with our choices of clothing, or why we say yes more often when we’re abroad? It’s the ability to not be anonymous that makes us do that. We feel like there are no, or rather less social norms keeping us back.

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This is part two of a series on this same subject. You can find the first part of it if you click here. Please come back for the rest of it soon. 

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