Travel blog focused on lessons learned travelling. The blog focuses less on the destination and landmarks and more on the journey itself. Posts aim to provide, besides travel stories, lessons, advice, tips and travel inspired literature.
This what your Mr Worldling - Lessons Learned Travelling Blog Ad will look like to visitors! Of course you will want to use keywords and ad targeting to get the most out of your ad campaign! So purchase an ad space today before there all gone!
notice: Total Ad Spaces Available: (2) ad spaces remaining of (2)
don't think we can choose who our friends are. We can definitely choose who we want to hang out with or who to make acquaintances with, but not really who we form friendships with. The post On Friendship appeared first on Mr Worldling.
The other day I got into a disagreement with some of my friends and our Uber driver. On one side, I said that we don’t really get to choose our friends and on the other, the driver and my friends, revolted, mildly scolded me that I am talking nonsense and that friends are actually the only ones we can choose, as opposed to family. As the ride was short, I couldn’t really argue too much so we cut it short as we had to say our farewells.
However, the friendship phenomenon has been on the back of my mind for quite a while as I often reflect on the relations I develop with other people. When it comes to friendship, I don’t think we can choose who our friends are. We can definitely choose who we want to hang out with or who to make acquaintances with, but not really who we form friendships with. It could be that sometimes the people we choose to hang out with become our friends eventually but coincidentally, and not really as a result of our direct and conscious action of browsing for and picking friendship. Since friendship is such a complex two-sided phenomenon, I believe there are elements beyond our control that dictate who our friends are. These elements include but are not limited to the circumstances we meet most people in, and commonly shared significant past events and history.
Think about how many times you’ve been let down by people you thought were your friends, those that you had ‘picked’ but who eventually let you down. Or about the times you were in need and the least expected acquaintances came to your help, those you eventually started calling friends not by your choice, but by their actions. No matter how hard you try to be someone’s friend, there’s no way you will know if they will return your friendship. It doesn’t matter how many times you are there for someone who you consider a friend, as if that someone in turn considers you an acquaintance, he will not be there for you as a friend. What does matter is the reciprocity in the relation. And any expectation you might have based on your acts of friendship (e.g expecting the same in return) is very likely to hurt you.
I have acquaintances that I spend most of my days with that I can’t really call friends, at least without lying to myself. On the other hands, there’s people thousands of miles away, whom I only see once or twice a year, or people I haven’t seen in 10 or more years whom I can rely on most of the the time, regardless of the distance or time spent apart. Those are what I consider true friends. Those friends who I can get into heated political debates and arguments to the point that we end up calling each other the worst of the worst of names and officially declare our mutual hatred for each other. Those friends who have disappointed me or let me down and in turn I’ve done the same for them and stopped seeing them or moved out or unfriended them on social media.
Yet still, for some mysterious reason, the next time we meet or talk, or in case any of us needs any help, it all just gets erased – point blank – and all is left is the friendship that bound us in the first place. For the same reason these are the only people that really know at least a part of me, understand it and are able and willing to help when I need it. And I do the exact same for them too.
I’ve known my best friend for 21 years. We met in primary school and parted ways 14 years ago. And for the past 10 years I’ve barely seen him a dozen times. And we’ve both grown and are different people than what we used to be. And we have different views on life, politics or religion. And it doesn’t matter. None of these elements are as strong as the ones that formed our friendship initially, elements beyond our control or choice.
You’d probably agree with me that if you sat down and reflected on all the people you know, the circumstances you’ve met and developed relations in, you would be sadly surprised to find out how truly few friends you have. And that most probably none were really your choice, as most of your choices turned out to be disappointments. But you’re still grateful for the ones you have and probably wouldn’t change them with any of your other ‘options’ even if you had the power to do so.
Last Saturday I managed to board a crazy busy train from Manchester to Nottingham. I found myself sat at a table seat with two very interesting characters opposite me: a Jamaican British man who had just visited his eldest son in prison and a White British woman who had just visited her daughter at university. […] The post Dolphin appeared first on Mr...
Last Saturday I managed to board a crazy busy train from Manchester to Nottingham. I found myself sat at a table seat with two very interesting characters opposite me: a Jamaican British man who had just visited his eldest son in prison and a White British woman who had just visited her daughter at university. Both were in their late 40s but the three of us seemed to share some sort of connection.
Firstly we were all outraged at the fact that only 2 train passenger cars turned up and everyone was crammed in. Secondly we were all lucky to have actually gotten seats whilst other passengers were crammed in like sardines or on the floor.
‘We can be expecting a lot more of this now that the Tories stayed’ I broke the (conversation) ice.
Both agreed with long sighs and then went on to lament about their lives. The woman lamented as she and her husband couldn’t enjoy their lives as they were financially supporting their daughter studying architecture. At the same time, considering the high tuition fees and the 7 year length of her daughter’s course she was also concerned about their investment paying off in the long run. (As her daughter would find herself in a 80k + debt after graduation)
The man lamented about the system that put him in prison for 12 years and taught him several skills such as tiling, repairing, painting, plumbing which proved worthless when he got out as no one was willing to employ him due to his criminal record. ( he was also diagnosed as psychotic) Whilst he was content with the benefits he was receiving he was concerned that other kids of him (he has 11) might follow in his or his eldest’s footsteps.
‘If they brand me as psychotic and as a public menace and then no-one will hire me how can they expect me to not go back to what I do best – selling drugs?’ he exclaimed.
I didn’t really know what to say so I just nodded in approval. After a few moments of awkward silence, the woman got her kindle out and I took a book out. Sapiens by Yuval Harari.
‘That any good?’ The man asked me grinning.
‘Pretty good actually, it’s about the evolution of humans as a species’ I replied enthusiastically.
‘Oh right yea I know that stuff sounds great’ he replied ‘unlike other bollocks about man coming out of monkeys! I mean, you don’t see any monkeys turning into humans nowadays do you?’ He continued laughing like a young boy.
‘Well I haven’t seen any’ I replied chuckling.
‘They say we’re all marsupials don’t they?’ The woman intervened.
I was a bit confused for a few seconds by her answer but then I got it. ‘I think you mean mammals’ I replied
‘Yea yea yea, just like me!!’ the man replied enthusiastically as he was taking his wallet out . ‘Look at my last name, it’s ‘Dolphin’!!! he exclaimed in excitement as he took out his bank card and showed us his name.
We all burst out laughing. From there the conversation took unexpected turns.
‘You know they say there’s this time called The Dark Ages, like in the 1200s , for about 300-400 years that no one knows about. I mean no one knows what happened during those times, there’s no data, no evidence no proof of anyone having lived in those times’ the woman told us on a worried tone.
‘Oh I think there’s plenty of evidence’ I replied. ‘They’re just hiding it from us’ I continued.
‘Exactly!’ the man approved. ‘Just like the moon landing which never happened!’he continued. The woman nodded in approval.
‘Ah man, I can’t believe I lost my phone today. An IPhone 11 Pro that cost me £1400’ he changed topic. ‘But it’s alright, I locked with my fingerprint so no one else would be able to access it. And then I’ll claim it on my insurance and get a new one’ he continued. ‘Although this fingerprint system is not very good. My missus used my finger to unlock it while I was sleeping and caught me chatting with other girls. Then woke me up in slaps!’
‘Why don’t you use face lock?’ I asked.
‘That wouldn’t work bro, I sleep with my eyes closed’
‘Ok I know! Why don’t you use your toe to lock your phone? I bet she’d never unlock that then! ‘
*Bro Fist* ‘My man, I will definitely do that! What a great idea don’t know how I never thought of it!’
‘Although if you were out and had to unlock your phone, would you take your shoe and sock off to unlock it?’
We all burst out laughing again.
‘Ah bad idea, bad idea, I think I’ll just stick to being honest.’
‘Now that’s a good idea!’ I replied.
As he started lamenting the train was late, and the could not let his girlfriend now about it, Ana offered him her phone to text her.
‘Is it ok if I call? You see, I don’t know how to write cause I can’t spell.’
After he finished the phone call, Dolphin kept on talking about his life. He quickly jumped from one topic to another , from his mother that abandoned him to only came back eventually to ask for money, to his past life filled with violence, to the ridiculous high amount of benefit money he was currently on. It was hard to differentiate fact from fiction as both seemed to blend seamlessly in a novelesque urban modern tale.
It was hard not to feel sorry for him and blame the system for how he and his eldest son turned out. But it’s hard to tell, as there’s always two sides of the coin. The last Touch ID Iphone Apple produced was the IPhone 8, in 2017.
1. Learn how to Cook Food that you cook yourself is cheaper and tastes way better. Maybe not as good as your mom’s though. 2. Learn how to Dance Learn at least a few styles of dancing and keep on practicing. It will keep you fit, reduce stress and help you make countless connections. 3. Wear Sunscreen […] The post 28 Piece of Advice I would give to my 28 Years Younger Self appeared first on Mr...
Food that you cook yourself is cheaper and tastes way better. Maybe not as good as your mom’s though.
Learn at least a few styles of dancing and keep on practicing. It will keep you fit, reduce stress and help you make countless connections.
It only takes one bad burn for skin cancer to develop over a period as long as 15 years. A sunscreen flask is cheap and lasts you for months. This unnecessary risk is not worth it.
You don’t want them stuck in your throat and cause a burn down your oesophagus which will leave you with long lasting nerve pain. (like someone I know)
Even if it’s just a long walk or 15 minutes of stretching, put your body in motion. Sedentarism won’t do you good.
Don’t accept compromises for the sake of blending in. You’ll be way happier around people that accept you just the way you are.
It will teach you discipline and ways to control your anger and power. Only use it to defend yourself.
It might be true what they say, that you’ll sleep when you’re dead but you’ll be dead a lot quicker if you don’t get enough sleep every night. Almost aim for around 8 hours of sleep, never less than 7 and no more than 10.
Strongly hold on the meaningful connections that you make and never fully let go of the apparent less meaningful ones. Learn to only allow select people in your closer circles, but never hesitate in expanding those circles or shifting them around. Use these circles wisely but never dissolve them. Because as Bojack once said, all that we have in this terrifying life, are the connections that we make.
Too often people will show you their true colours and you will only choose to see the ones you like. If you can’t accept all of them, then you have to let them go.
The world does not revolve around you. Be mindful and treat everyone around you just like you would like to be treated. Always stay humble and remind yourself your limitations. There will always someone be better than you at something, regardless of what others tell you. Don’t become a narcissist, seek altruism instead.
It doesn’t matter if you’re better than anyone else at anything else or vice versa. What matters is how much better you are than what you used to be. This is the only way to grow.
You don’t have to be forgiven, as long as you’ve done your best to make amends for your mistakes.
Forgive but don’t forget. Learn your lessons and move on. Holding grudges will only wear you down. Don’t get trapped in the cycle of revenge.
Learn to accept that some things are simply out of your control and consuming yourself over them will not be beneficial for you.
Ideally, wait at least three days before making a decision regarding an event that caused you anger. These days should be enough to allow you to reflect on your anger and the right decision to be made. It also provides you with enough time to discuss your feelings with others. If you’ don’t have three days, wait at least one. If you don’t have a day, find it.
As Shaykh Ali Al-Jamal once said ‘If people knew how many secrets and benefits are to be found in need, they would have no other need but to be in need.’ Don’t be afraid to ask when you’re in need. Ask the people around you, and if there’s none ask God, if you don’t believe in God, ask the universe, ask yourself just ask for help. You will get it.
If you spend most of your day at work, make sure you get satisfaction from it. Money will never be enough.
If you’ve got a health issue, seek medical advice from a doctor. If you don’t agree with that doctor or if he’s not helping, get a second or third or fourth opinion from other doctors. Only use alternative medicine (naturist, functional etc) as complimentary.
For your own sake, and for the ones surrounding you, always talk about your mental struggles and listen to others about theirs. You might save their lives and they might save yours.
Always try to help the ones around you as you were helped when you needed it. Don’t except for anything in return. If you feel bad giving, then don’t do it at all. Rather, focus on learning how to give.
Don’t be ashamed or scared to pursue spiritual knowledge. Seek guidance within religion but don’t allow dogma to dictate your life. Never be afraid to question human guidance. Faith is personal, only you need to believe, not the others as well.
Taking care of your body is not easy work. It requires routine. And routine can be boring and tiresome. But it is necessary in order to make the most of your life. Brush your teeth two to three times a day, floss, eat your 5 a day and beware of alcohol, sugar, tobacco and drugs.
Talk to your family and spend time with them as often as possible. You might not have as much time together as you think.
Always try to help the ones around you as you were helped when you needed it. Don’t expect anything in return. If you feel bad when giving, then don’t do it at all. Rather, focus on learning how to give.
No matter how hard you try, you will not be able to change people directly. The only way to change someone is indirectly, through your own example. You will not be the active change factor. Rather, the active part will be that someone who will choose to follow your example and change as a result. Change is a two-way process. It first requires incentive, and then will. If people around you don’t have the will to change and they become a reason for your unhappiness then perhaps you should reconsider your social circles. You can be the incentive but never the will.
Ignorance is bliss. The more you know, the harder life gets. When you are young and oblivious to pretty much everything around you, life is a lot easier and happiness can be found within your immediate reach. However, the more knowledgeable you become of your surroundings, unhappiness, disease, decay, the harder some things become to digest. From here on you only have two options: Resist knowledge and suffer immaturity’s consequences ; or accept the burden that comes with knowledge and learn how to live with it. In the process, don’t let your own intelligence work against you, always raise above it.
The only way to live without guilt and be closer to that which we humans call unhappiness is to always stay true to our beliefs. That means to always act accordingly to the principles that define you as a human being. These principles are not the same for everyone and can be quite different from individual to individual, country to country, culture to culture and so on. The first step is being honest with yourself. Completely. This is the hardest part. Once you can wholeheartedly accept what your flaws and qualities are, and what are the main things or people keeping you alive, then you can start applying the principle of being true to your word. Many sets of religious or ethical beliefs advocate this. Basically, don’t be a hypocrite, don’t pretend to be someone who you are not, practice what you preach, be the change you want to see in the world and you will be able to live guilt free from that moment on as you will have no reason to believe you have acted wrongly. Mistakes might set you back but they should not be seen as a setback but rather as an opportunity to revise your set of beliefs, and keep on acting in accordance with them.
The post 28 Piece of Advice I would give to my 28 Years Younger Self appeared first on Mr Worldling.
The Young and the Communist A few weeks ago I was walking through the main square of Nottingham when a small group of young activists drew my attention. They had a stall with pamphlets, Cuban and Venezuelan flags and were speaking out against capitalism. I was intrigued so I went to check them out. They […] The post Cuba – The Failed Promised Communist Paradise appeared first on Mr...
A few weeks ago I was walking through the main square of Nottingham when a small group of young activists drew my attention. They had a stall with pamphlets, Cuban and Venezuelan flags and were speaking out against capitalism. I was intrigued so I went to check them out. They told me they were part of an organisation (Rock around the Blockade) that supports socialism in Cuba and Venezuela and campaigns against the US blockade and imperialism.
While myself am quite Marxist in thinking, I did agree with them on American imperialism and economic sanctions issues but disagreed on their portrayal of Venezuela and Cuba as ideal examples the ‘UK should follow.’ They reminded me of myself, when I was younger and reading about the utopia socialism and capitalism could lead to. However, When I told them that Venezuela and Cuba fail to provide for universal human rights, and are failed communist states, the young activists got very defensive.
One of them was so vehemently convinced that Cuba was a perfect example of democracy that he started spitting out ‘facts’ about how many elections the Cubans have had and the importance of the new referendum that gave a voice to all people. ‘If that’s not democracy, what is it?’ I was aggressively told.
First of all, I asked the young man, ‘Have you ever been to Cuba ?’ ‘No’ he told me but ‘a good friend of mine that I trust 100% went and told me how free Cuban people are. Plus, there’s s YouTube video of eyewitnesses reports you can watch and see for yourself’ (which I did when I got back home)
‘My advice to you is go there and see for yourself.’ I replied. ‘But independently. If you go on an organised tour, you will only see what the organisers want to show you.’ I continued.
‘My friends went there, and I can assure you they saw no lack of freedom’ he continued and then added some more ‘statistics’ on the people’s content with socialism. ‘Where do you get your statistics from?’ I asked. ‘From independent organisations’ he replied. ‘Which ones?’ I continued. ‘I don’t know’ he admitted but ‘I trust them.’
‘As I said before, go to Havana yourself, and strike random conversations with locals on the street, and you’ll see what will happen.’ ‘What?’he answered already irritated. ‘You’ll see how the police will take these locals away, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.’
He started laughing in disbelief. At this point I got a bit irritated and replied a bit harshly: ‘See, that’s exactly my point, you’re laughing because you find it inconceivable. You come from a privileged society and take your rights for granted. The very right you have of shouting out loud whatever crosses your mind in this square does not exist in Cuba. If you do it you will get arrested.’
He got very angry and replied ‘I know I’m privileged and don’t take it for granted.!!’There are people arrested all the time in Market Square!’ he replied huffing and puffing.
‘But not for the same reason! You go there and you will see for yourself’ I repeated.
At that point as he was already extremely irritated he said there was no point continuing the conversation and walked away.
I was a bit disappointed he didn’t allow me to further explain these things to him. If someone had told me 2 years ago that locals would get taken away by the police on the street in Havana I would not have believed it either. ‘When Cuba is making efforts to improve tourism, why would they do that?’. I would have posed the exact same question and scepticism just as the young activist did.
But the complexity is far greater than this. If Cubans do not have a license that allows to engage in tourism activities, they are not allowed to interact with tourist. It’s happened to me on 3 occasions, when locals I was speaking to got taken away by the police for the simple act of speaking to me. That is not the freedom we are used to in the West.
Me getting a bit harsh on him did not help either, I guess. Deep down I really wanted him to be right so when I got back home I watched the YouTube video he had mentioned.
Sadly, it was exactly what I had assumed in the first place. Interviews mostly taken from state officials or state affiliated organisations. All of these interviews portrayed the perfect state with absolutely no criticism of the system.
There is even one journalist that mentions the freedom of speech Cuba has and gives as example the online publication CubaDebate.cu , where people have the right to comment whatever crosses their mind. I’ve had a look and he’s right. People say whatever they want, except anything against the party, which is taken down. (As all comments are moderated – censored in other words)
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a Cuban NGO not recognised by the state recorded over 5000 arbitrary detentions in 2017 for example. Some concrete examples : DR Eduardo Gardet Concepcion, who criticised Fidel Castro in public got a 3 year sentence in prison; Yulier Perez , a graffiti artist was harassed and eventually detained for expressing himself through his art. Danilo Machado was imprisoned in a maximum security prison for writing ‘Se fue’ (he’s gone) on a wall when Castro died. Again, this is not what we consider Freedom in the west.
I’ve had a look at the new constitution as well and I agree. Some things are getting better and improved (potential legalisation of same sex marriage, commitment to environmental protection, further provisions for people with disabilities, ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its first two Optional Protocols) but they are nowhere close to western standards democracy, freedom of speech and human rights. Yes Cuba has a great culture and great happy people because they learned how to make most of their situation and make compromises regarding certain freedoms.
For example Article 95.h protects artistic expression, but only when it conforms with “socialist values”. On the one hand, the text proposes the “democratisation of cyberspace”, but on the other it condemns the use of the internet for “subversion” (Article 16.l). Human rights guarantees are restricted to what is already established under Cuban laws, many of which are contrary to international law and international human rights provisions.
Most independent human rights organisations continued to be denied access to the country and to its prisons. Cuba is under scrutiny for human rights abuses by several human rights organisations amongst which most notably Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN. Cuba remains the only country in the Americas region to deny access to Amnesty International.
A true exercise in democracy and human rights would be for the state to genuinely allow people a choice of the form of government. However, Cuba remains a one party led state that will silence and suppress any opposition.
Many of these young activists praised Cuba’s healthcare system, which is free for all. While it’s true in some particular cases, overall the Cuban health system has failed to provide equally all people with access to the same facilities. Only a number of hospitals to which only the privileged have access actually have decent conditions. The rest lack many medical facilities, lack sanitary conditions and necessary medicine. I have a Cuban friend in Nottingham who always sends her mom aspirin, because there’s always a shortage of medicines in her area. The below video gives you a glimpse into the failures of the Cuban health system.
As I come from an ex-communist country, I understand both sides, especially as I sympathise with Marxist thought. However, I’ve seen what communism did to my native country, Romania, and how long it took to recover. Communism simply did not work on any level. On a moral level, communism should promote equality amongst all workers. Workers would only receive the necessary amount from the shared wages and any surplus would be equally distributed. This did not work on any level, as obviously, everybody has a different concept of what ‘necessary needs’ are. So, the people in power kept all the wealth, similarly to the bourgeoisie in capitalism, while depriving the working class of the same opportunity. In order to protect their privilege, the higher up functions repressed any movement of disobedience. On the other hand, the workers that could not access the surplus, resorted to other means of making money, capitalistic means, by operating on the black market. In essence, that meant stealing from the government and selling on for profit.
Needless to say, it was not long until people realised communism as a system did not work and they brutally ended it in 1989. However, the same corrupt structures stayed in place for at least another 15 years and have only started to crumble a decade ago. Those very structures left a long lasting impact on people’s mentality which I witnessed growing up. People still stocking up water or tinned food ‘just in case’ there will be a shortage like it used to be during Communist times; people being wary of speaking in public or over the phone against the current government out of fear of being persecuted by the police or secret services who used to tap phones and monitor any anti-governmental movements; people being scared of peacefully protesting due to fears of them losing their lives as in the case of the post communist peaceful protests of 1990 and 1991 when over 40 peaceful protesters, mostly students, were killed and several hundred injured. Or even the most recent protests in August 2018 when the government suppressed a peaceful protest with water cannons, tear gas and police brutality. These are the structures that never really dissipated and still plague the Romanian society almost 30 years after the fall of communism.
When I went to Cuba, I could see many similarities to the Romanian case. Just as Romania, Cuba is another example of failed communism. Its economy has creative massive voids which in turn have created massive discrepancies and gaps between social classes where only the privileged few can have a decent livelihood. It’s also made its citizens dependent on the black market (a capitalist construct) to obtain necessary goods. It’s definitely made improvements here and there but I think it’s a long way from achieving Marx’s utopia. I’ve previously written about Cuba’s Street Economics but you can also watch the video below, which exemplifies how people get around communism’s harsh conditions employing capitalism to aid them.
I love Cuba, its culture and its people’s resilience to make the most of their situation. And I think we have a lot to learn from its situation. However, I can’t say the same about its government. On the other hand, we also have a lot to learn about why communism would not work in our western democratic societies.
In case you do get involved with such organisations, please do your research before choosing to support them and ask yourselves if you could live in the regimes that are portrayed so perfectly by them. The best way is going there and seeing the reality by yourself. But don’t go on guided tours, organised by institutions. Go independently, and do independent research in the communities. And then the harsh reality of what Cuban socialism really means will hit you.
Cuba Debate Online Journal :
Human Rights Watch:
UN Report of the Independent Expert on human rights:
Reflections on Travel Travelling Well is quite a vague concept. Since travel is such a personal experience, it’s hard to find a fit for all model. Numerous travellers have come up with different theories on what the ideal way of travel is. Some, as Ruskin praised trips in nature and the importance of drawing while […] The post On Travelling Well – Making The Most of Travel appeared first on Mr...
Travelling Well is quite a vague concept. Since travel is such a personal experience, it’s hard to find a fit for all model. Numerous travellers have come up with different theories on what the ideal way of travel is. Some, as Ruskin praised trips in nature and the importance of drawing while travelling. Others, such as Humboldt, believed a traveler should study a variety of domains in order to understand the world. History, Biology, Geology, Chemistry and Physics would be the must know areas of education for the ideal traveller.
One of my favourite interpretation is Allain de Botton’s, who refers to Travelling Well as the Art of Travel. Just like Art takes multiple forms, awakens various feelings and becomes a representation of the artist , so does travelling.
Last year, I’ve written on the importance of reflection on the types of travellers we are. Drawing on the same concept, I think it is equally important to be honest with ourselves in terms of what we want to make out of travel.
Here, I will provide an account of what I consider to be Travelling Well. You, or others might very well disagree with my views and that is perfectly fine and normal. We all travel for different reasons, in different ways, and pursue different goals. However, at times, we get distracted by shallow pursuits and are in danger of forgetting our values that push us to travel. The very act of reflecting on those distractions and honestly admitting their shallow nature allows us to begin Travelling Well.
When I first started travelling, my dream was to visit all 195 countries of the world. (or 197 if you include Kosovo and Taiwan) I used to love reading about people who had visited all countries in as little as one year. I had hoped I would once do the same, and would eventually put together a photo album of pictures of me standing next to the most famous landmarks of the world: Eiffel Tower, The Great Wall of China, The Statue of Liberty, The Pyramids of Giza etc as a celebration of my achievement.
However, since I’ve started travelling 13 years ago, my perception on what travel means changed dramatically. Gradually, travel became more than just vacations, and objectives more than landmarks. I’ve started seeing in travel not just relaxation, but a way to learn more both about the world and myself.
I’ve never given up on my dream to visit all countries in the world. However, my perception on how I would do it changed. Although I’ve been travelling for the past 13 years, I’ve only truly seen about 5 countries. I did set foot in another 15 or so, but only seen small parts of them.
I often feel guilty when people praise me about having travelled to twenty countries. Because I know that although technically I am not lying, I’ve only scratched the surface in most of them. For example, I can’t cross the Netherlands of my list when I’ve only visited Amsterdam for a weekend. Or Mexico, when I’ve only travelled in the Yucatan region for a week.
It seems that nowadays, the trend amongst travellers is collecting as many stamps on their passports in the least amount of time possible. Most of them seem to be reducing countries to names, collected in the form of a social media vanity contest. The winner is not the wisest or most knowledgeable but rather the Most Travelled.
The Most Travelled’s raison d’être is Setting Foot in Them All as fast as possible. Once a country has been ticked off as stepped into, the mission is complete. A shallow mission whose primary focus and direct result is feeding the ego. Rushing to see a place only gives you a superficial understanding of its culture and also potentially the illusion that you can tick it off your travel list.
The Most Travelled mentality is, understandably, part of all of us. We all want to be the best at something, and if possible do it the easiest way. I was definitely guilty of it when I first started travelling. So guilty that I even wanted to tick off Russia since I had a stopover in an airport in Moscow.
By boasting of having visited an X number of countries I felt empowered, worldlier. I thought I was wiser, more interesting and happier the more I exaggerated the places I had seen. So, I would rush to set foot in a country just so I could tick it off my list and then pretend I’ve completely seen it.
However, while I had managed to fool the people around me, there was one who never bought my bullshit: myself. Deep down, I knew I was not completely honest with myself and others and hence I felt a sense of guilt and responsibility.
Now, when I think about how much of the world I’ve visited, I think in regions rather than in countries. A free platform I have been using to track my progress is NomadMania, originally The Best Travelled. This platform splits the world into regions, allows you to select the ones you’ve seen and then calculates the percentage of the world you’ve actually seen. I find this a more accurate way of measuring travel, but also a reminder of the long journey ahead.
I would rather spend a few weeks in a country than travel to multiple ones in a short amount of time. Or, if I can’t afford to take a couple of weeks to visit a country, I would rather split my travel into small trips over several months or years.
For example, I really wanted to see Spain but could not afford to take a long time off work to do so. So, in the past 2 years I’ve travelled to Spain about 20 times, every time in a different place. I’ve seen most of its regions and islands, spoken and learned from the locals about culture, languages and politics. And yet, there are still parts I haven’t seen or wish to revisit. Although I think I deserve a break from it temporarily, it’s always going to be a place I will return to.
For me, making the most of travel is understanding and experiencing first hand a different culture. It is only then that I feel fulfilled, happier and wiser as a traveller.
Understanding a different culture goes well beyond observing passively and quickly different customs. It implies actively participating or engaging with the given culture. Asking questions but also looking for multiple answers. Trying out new cuisines instead of trying out new McDonalds. Listening to new music. Dancing on different beat. Learning a different language. Or at least some phrases of a language instead of relying on English for communication. (or on your native language) At the same time, understanding a culture requires time, which can be tricky to manage. If we can’t take our time to experience a culture, lack of time will overwhelm us.
When visiting a place for a short time and find that it offers multiple attractions, many of us try to squeeze in as many things as possible. Ironically, the reason we invoke is making the most of our trip. In fact, making the most of our trip is exactly the opposite.
When we travel at a fast pace, constantly pressured by time, we are limited in genuinely enjoying any of those given attractions. At the same time it also threatens our perception of the places we see. Rushing when travelling only give us a superficial understanding of the places we see. Not only do we get a false idea about our destinations but we also risk completely losing interest in them, especially if we experience unfortunate events in the short time we visit.
Two years ago, I was on set filming for a movie in Nottingham. There, I met a fellow traveller. She told me she had extensively backpacked through Europe but had had a terrible experience while backpacking in Bucharest. Her experience was so bad that she called off her trip and flew back home. She had never gone back to Romania since and did not have plans to do so in the future.
‘Poor girl’ I thought to myself, expecting a horror story. However, all it was was that a taxi driver tried to rip her off and they got in a heated argument. (as he was demanding more money that she had expected) When she finished her story I asked, surprised : ‘Is that it? Really?;’ To which she replied ‘Yes, it was a horrible experience.’ My response was: ‘ Well, I apologise on behalf of all Romanians but would encourage you to visit again, as these things happen to tourists everywhere.’
She is the classic example of the unexperienced traveller, the backpacker. Backpackers travel at such a fast pace through so many countries that they don’t have the necessary time to understand the culture of the places they see. As a result, they fail to properly interact with the locals and risk getting into conflicts. Then, if they have a negative experience, they generalise and reduce the whole of the country to one singular dimension. In other words, they become trapped in an illusion they themselves create.
Had she learned more about Eastern Europe, she would have understood that many taxi drivers can set their own tariffs, unlike in the West. Hence, if you are not careful and take a black cab, you can end up paying a lot more. That does not only happen to tourists, but also to locals, when they are not careful. The average backpacker mistakenly assumes and expects that things will function the same way they do back home.
While this is a very shallow perspective, it is perfectly understandable. If I only had one day in a country I’d never visited before, and I got robbed that day, I would definitely associate that country with robbery at least for a short while. While to me this woman’s story sounded ridiculous initially, thinking about it retrospectively, I do understand her. While to me, an argument with a taxi driver over a small fare would not constitute a big thing, for other people, it could constitute a major shock. We each develop emotionally differently and as a result react to certain events in very distinct ways.
In a more extreme case, one of my friends only visited Shanghai once and has absolutely hated China since. That is because on the first day in Shanghai, the police mistook him for a criminal. As he didn’t speak the language he could not defend himself verbally so the officers physically assaulted him in plain street. He was pepper-sprayed and suffered wounds to his head, face and body. He was then shoved into the back of a police car and imprisoned. In order to get out of prison, he was forced to sign a declaration stating that he was at fault for not cooperating with the Chinese authorities. While I do understand and can empathise with my friend a lot better, the kind of shock he experienced was the same as of the woman I met on the set. (albeit at a different, higher level)
Both of them have generalised, based on their negative experiences, a country they’ve only briefly seen. They did not have enough time to experience a different, positive side of those places as they were constrained by time and overwhelmed by emotions. This in turn, created a psychological barrier preventing them from having any future interest in the two countries or cultures.
Understanding a culture whether before or while travelling can help overcome such negative experiences a lot faster. And also help travellers refrain from developing poorly founded, negative first impressions about countries or cultures. This is a very complex situation since time and strong emotions can be an impediment to fully understanding a culture. (during short trips) Perhaps in this case, learning about a culture before travelling could help prevent such situations or help overcome them easier.
If you find yourself in a situation that does not allow you plenty of time in a place it is best to choose to focus on one particular aspect. If you try to focus on too many things in a short period of time, you will most likely not have the necessary time to do so. Frustration, tiredness will get to you eventually and any small incident will completely ruin your mood and the image of the place you visited.
As travel involves coming out of your comfort zone, you will need time for reflection and adaptation. If you are in a rush, you won’t even have time to think.
Last year, I went to Cuba for a short three-days stay. Some friends advised me to stay in Havana but go to the countryside as well. Others advised me to also visit the beach resorts or the tobacco plantations. Since I only had three days, I found no point in trying to squeeze in too many objectives so I decided to stay in Havana and focus on one single aspect: people.
So, instead of trying to see as many landmarks as possible and set objectives, I set out a very simple plan: to interact with as many locals as possible and through them learn about the Cuban culture. Visiting famous landmarks became secondary and only happened through the primary objective. So I spent most of the time in the streets, parks, and strangers’ homes, talking to the locals. I told my story and listened to theirs. I learned an incredible amount of things about Cuban culture, history and street economics.
In my first day I got ripped off and in my last day I got robbed. Had I only had one day in Havana and had these events happened in the same day, I would have probably been inclined to put Havana on my black list. However, because I met so many people and had so many amazing experiences in those 3 days, the two negative experiences did not affect me.
Having met so many honest people prevented me from wrongfully categorising everyone as charlatans. And having learned about the struggles of Cuban society made me understand why some people resort to desperate means.
If you only spend short amounts of times in places and focus on doing many things, the odds are that you will not make any connections. Even if you do, most probably they will be connections on a very shallow level. It takes time to get to know and trust people and when you are constantly on the move it’s almost impossible to create long lasting connections.
Looking back at my travels over the course of 13 years I’ve gained over a thousand extra social media friends. But in reality, I’ve only really made a handful of long-lasting connections. So, in the end I ended up unfriending about 800 Facebook friends since we had absolutely nothing in common except for maybe one drunken night. Other travellers that met me probably did the exact same thing.
On the other hand, if you direct your attention on a specific aspect you want to explore, you will be more likely to find others that share your interest and have them join you. (or vice versa) In this case you get the best of both: you fully understand and enjoy that one aspect and you make a worthwhile connection.(or more) If you choose to focus on several aspects you will inevitably have to divide your attention and time amongst several people. And this will decrease your chances of making purposeful connections.
In 2017 I met a German traveller in Bilbao who told me her story in tears. She had initially planned to cycle all the Camino De Santiago from France to Spain but she stopped mid-way through. Whilst she had a good cycling experience in France, when she got to the Spanish side, she had an awful experience and decided to call off the trip.
To my surprise, her story was not what I had expected. There was no major incident or accident involved. She just felt that the Spanish people were quite rude to her and not as friendly as the French. That, in turn, completely ruined her spiritual experience.
In other words, she had great expectations of how how people, strangers would interact with her during her trip. While those expectations were met on the French side, when she crossed over to the Spanish side, they were shattered.
Similarly to the backpacker I mentioned previously, the cyclist obviously had very little travel experience and great expectations. And again, experience is not reflective of the amount of travel done, but rather by the way it was done. However, at the same time, her situation was very understandable. Setting great expectations before venturing in the unknown is bound to be risky in all aspects of life.
I felt the same when I first travelled to Cuba. I had a lot of expectations based on what I had heard from friends or seen in the media. And they were all shattered to pieces.
However, due to my nature and background, it did not affect me as much as it did the cyclist. I quickly got over the initial shock and dropped all expectations. Had she been able to do the same, she could have carried on with her trip.
In this case, the best strategy is probably prevention. If you remove all expectations before your trip, you lessen the chances of inconveniences affecting you and increase the chances of getting over them.
Technology has revolutionised the way we travel and how we share our travel experiences. Gone are the days of post-cards and hand-written letters. E-Postcards aka Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook posts are the most convenient way of sharing travel greetings nowadays. And travel greetings most often come in the form of Selfies.
Nowadays, most popular landmarks are bound to be filled with tourists taking selfies. Camera flashes and different poses reduce the meaning of these landmarks to that of props. Taking a picture for social media has become so mainstream, that as long as something looks different, or aesthetically pleasing, the background of that something becomes irrelevant. Unless of course, it could make a nice picture background.
Everyone wants to be different nowadays, so ‘new’ poses and angles are required for a Travel Instagram Influencer to flourish. However, albeit different the poses of these tourists, they share the same superficial essence. In essence, a Travel Instagram Influencer’s raison d’etre seems not to be travelling, but rather modelling.
Numerous takes to take a selfie, where the centre of attention is the self, always ensuring the outfit and make up are on spot, do not constitute the actions of a traveller, but rather of a model. In this sense, the meaning of travel is reduced to that of simply collecting aesthetically pleasing photos.
In this case, perhaps a balanced mixture of the two, travel and modelling would be ideal. You can always harmlessly flirt with the modelling side when capturing your travel memories. However, you have to be careful as vanity is tempting and can lead you away from the essence of travel. Craving knowledge on different cultures is far more productive than craving attention for likes on social media.
Although I am critical of the use of social media platforms, I am not advocating boycotting them. These are wonderful tools you can use to enhance your experience, capture it and share it. I frequently use them but at the same time I am aware of their potential adverse effects. I am careful to avoid my whole experience revolving around my tools instead of my trip.
As I am quite picky, taking the perfect picture most often takes quite a bit of time. (to find the right angle, composure, perspective etc) And quite a few takes. Whilst doing this, especially if constrained by time, the main focus become the practice rather than the place. Hence, I risk getting caught in the illusion that I am capturing the beauty of a place, without ever actually feeling it. Ultimately, the resulting photo does not inspire any of the beauty I might have been able to feel, and which I didn’t because I was too busy taking the photo.
What I’ve started doing lately is allocating a specific time of the day (or sometimes a whole day) for photography and restricting my use of devices for the rest of the days. This way I ensure I am not losing the focus of my travel objective. By separating the two (exploring and photography) I can focus a lot better on both and reap better results.
On a recent work trip at a conference in Spain I met an elder Peruvian man. As part of the week program , we had some cultural visits around and away the city. Every time we would see something new, this man was either taking pictures or filming. He was capturing them all: paintings, benches, rocks, stairs, houses, kittens. ‘How is he even enjoying this trip?’ I thought to myself. He did not seem to be genuinely absorbing or learning anything new.
At one point we went for a meal and we asked him to join us. He told us he would not be able to join since he had to take some more pictures. ‘Ah come one, stop wasting your time on your phone’, someone told him. (promise it wasn’t me) ‘No, it’s not a waste of time’ he calmly responded. ‘I am taking these photos and videos for my daughters, who are more excited than I am about this trip.’
When I heard his response, I literally swallowed sadness and shame. Sadness that his daughters could not be with him; shame that I rushed to judge an elder man for taking photos for his daughters and not standing up to my expectations of travelling well.
Some of us travel to better our own lives, others, to better that of others. In this case, as simple as it might sound, he made his daughters happy by sending them photos of a country they might never get to see. Had he afforded to take them on the work trip, he would have definitely, since Spain is the European Dream for many in Latin America.
He sacrificed travel time and personal enjoyment for that of his daughters. But yet again I am wrong. He did not sacrifice anything since the happiness of his daughters seemed to be enough to make him enjoy his trip as much as they did.
What I came to conclude is that we get don’t get better at travelling the more we do it. We get better at travelling the more we reflect on it. Reflecting on the reasons we travel for, the way we travel and the outcomes we expect out of travelling can help us find our best version of making the most of travel.
In my case, I found that reducing travel expectations reduced chances of getting disappointed or affected by negative experiences. This, in turn helps me not rush into judging countries or cultures by first impressions. I’ve realised that it is not the numbers of countries that I see give me the most satisfaction; but rather the extent to which I understand and engage with their cultures. Although I like photography, I’ve learned that focusing too much on it might prevent me from fully enjoying my destinations.
Most importantly, I learned to constantly be honest with myself and not judge the people around me. This is my version of Travelling Well. Hope you find yours too.
Mother’s Cold Wisdom Purposefully Painful Slowly Relieves Pain Drying out Drenched EyesFreeing Freezing FeelingsUnchaining the Untameable Mind. The post Prana appeared first on Mr Worldling.
Mother’s Cold Wisdom
Slowly Relieves Pain
Drying out Drenched Eyes
Freeing Freezing Feelings
Unchaining the Untameable Mind.
Or if you prefer use one of our linkware images? Click here
If you are the owner of Mr Worldling - Lessons Learned Travelling, or someone who enjoys this blog why not upgrade it to a Featured Listing or Permanent Listing?