you gotta live a little …
You blew half your savings on this trip. Cashed in a years worth of vacation days at work. And even got a new fancy SLR to capture every fantastical moment of your dream vacation. Hooray! Let the adventure begin! The world is your oyster, carpe diem … hey who wants a Big Mac?
No. No. No! It never ceases to amaze me the amount of tourists that seem completely horrified by the road less trodden. Why travel to the ends of the earth to do the exact same thing you can do in your backyard? Might as well save a ton of money by staying put and splurging on the HBO movie package.
No matter where I go I find countless tourist herding from one tourist trap to the next, wrinkling their nose up at local street food grilling on a half drum, bypassing the hole-in-the-wall with live music for the place with the English menu plastered out front. Someday I will run screaming into the Hard Rock Cafe Singapore and proclaim “for the love of God why are you people buying frozen chicken fingers and overpriced, logo-plastered, paraphernalia?!”
To be fair, I think I understand why some well meaning tourist fall into the occasional “tourist trap”. Many travelers resort to the familiar because they are simply terrified of the unknown. Deep down I think they want to get a true local experience but just can’t seem to jump. Frightened back into their comfort zone of fried food pleasantly presented in their native tongue.
I consider myself adventurous, but even I get culture shock when I travel. Alone in Kathmandu, after an absolutely nail biting car ride to the hotel, I really had to psych myself up to embrace the no sidewalks, honking moped craziness, and figure out how to navigate the smog laden streets without getting run over by a tractor. By the end of the trip I was drinking Nepali moonshine with locals and savoring a fine yak sizzler.
When I DO get scared I think, what’s the worst that could happen? Maybe that weird meat on the stick might make me sick for a few hours, maybe I’ll have to use embarrassing charades to ask directions, and sure, maybe I could die. But that could also happen in my backyard. I’d much rather go out in a blaze of glory on elephant back than get run over by crazy Ms. Jenkins at the farmers market back home. What’s the point of living if you really aren’t living? I’m not suggesting you leave your common sense at home, but don’t forget to pack your sense of adventure.
Devour the mystery meat, leap off the rock, tango with the street performer, get lost on the moped, and may the only souvenirs you bring back be stories people actually want to hear, and maybe a few cool scars.