Monday, July 19, 2010

The Questionable Value of Novelty in Travel

I've been on a couple of student exchanges abroad, and spent a couple of months in different cities. I get somewhat embarrassed, though, whenever I'm asked if I ventured much beyond the city (of the university I visited); that's because the answer is no, I was never very much an explorer.

The conversation would then go, "Ah, what a waste! You ought to have at least toured other neighboring cities, if not countries!", by which time I would attempt to skirt around the topic before diverting attention to other issues.

There might be something wrong with me, but I don't consider it particularly important to explore as widely as possible. I'll concede that doing so does broaden limited views, but then again the strategy of visiting many places briefly seems quite superficial compared to the through exploration of one sole city.

Sometimes in my absurd imagination I envisage tourists arriving at an attraction or place of local interest, ticking off a checklist, and then hurriedly moving off to the next location on the list. And that's what it is, isn't it- seeing as many places as possible. Perhaps it is a desire to get the most bang out of your buck, or making the most of a rare opportunity out of home. After all, you don't get many chances at a student exchange, and you don't get many days of holiday or leave.

But it seems to defeat the purpose, if the purpose is to enjoy. My idea of a holiday is something quite relaxing and laid-back, a time to drop the pace and take in the local atmosphere. Exploring all over, trotting everywhere, this all seems so exhausting in comparison. Such a holiday does seem more well-spent, at least on paper, but in my mind it seems akin to someone who stuffs himself fuller than full at a buffet. Such a person has 'enjoyed' more items, but whether he has truly enjoyed himself is in doubt.

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