As a child, I would often find myself revolted at the fact that my parents had the audacity to take me into a toy shop, and allow me to leave empty handed. What is the point of coming here? I would ask myself. Gosh, if we go to McDonald’s, I expect a burger!
It had, then, always been my priority to shop, and to look at my trip through all the purchase receipts we had collected in order to escape from taxation. This, goods, was the main means of legitimizing my experiences and solidifying my memories.
Of course I’ve been to the Vatican City, look, I bought this rosary!
Recently, however, and the more I’ve begun travelling by myself, there are a few epiphanies that take a recurrent role in my life.
1. Know what your destination can offer you.
Granted, Taiwan is in Asia, and Asia is, I suppose, cheap. But is that the story I wish to narrate to my friends when I’m back? A mere repetition of that aunt who also went to Taiwan and bought oh so many things and had to buy an extra suitcase? When you arrive at your destination, take the time to look at the people and see how they live, and whether they smile when they see you, from admiration, politeness, or just because they find the language barrier absurd. What about its’ food? What about its’ weather? Is it extremely hot? How do the people deal with it?
2. Know what you can offer to your destination.
You are an extra mouth to feed, and an extra agent of secretion and decay in another man’s land. Is your legacy superseding your carbon footprint? Take the time to truly immerse yourself, to learn how to say Hi! and Too expensive, let’s negotiate. Learn to get their humour and laugh along, and do share your talents. I have hitch hiked a few times during my stay in Taiwan, and I always draw a little picture and give it to the driver. It’s not much, but it is gratitude. Always remember to be a blessing, to bless the soil in which you step.
3. Remember your cents.
It’s okay to ditch the calculator for a minute, and simply allow yourself to buy that quick street food with those loose coins in your pocket. What’s with roaming the streets with US dollar bills big enough to pretend to be rich? Do not travel in the hope of putting up the image that you entertain an unattainable lifestyle. It is very much possible to travel realistically. Rather spend your money on things that cannot be replaced, or bought, such as experiences. Clothes are great, but you can get them anywhere else in the world.
4. Be humble, always.
Do not repeat the same thing to the taxi driver after finding that he simply does not understand your language, nor resolve to ignore and simply move on because the vendor won’t budge. Being a tourist does not give you a royalty badge, and so, when travelling, never think that the people should accommodate you. They never invited you over, you asked to come.
If you are travelling in a group, this is always an issue. Some will want to go the club, and you might simply want to take a walk in the garden. Your plans are not higher than anyone’s, and vice versa. Respect yourself, and others. And know that while we may travel together, we are individuals, pursuing individual agendas, and creating individual memories.
So always strive to live your own experiences, and never abandon the post of narrator of your own life.