I don’t trust nomads.
Or rather, I don’t trust nomadic bloggers claiming expertise on anything other than their wonderful wandering ways.
So we don’t all fight over semantics, let’s just say there are Wanderers and Travelers.
Wander. Wander until the dust turns to sand, and the sand turns to dust, and the grass recedes into the dirt. Wander until the unassuming river rocks knock you from bends to beaches, and into salty, endless green oceans. Wander.
Share your experiences wandering – and read about the experiences of your fellow nomads. Wandering matters, is valued. Even Tolkien said so. Whether or not you see the world beyond your glazed eyes is irrelevant, for wandering is a personal endeavor.
But if you only wander, if you never look up from your personal journey, don’t tell me you’ve seen the world. And don’t listen to the travel bloggers trying to convince you that their wandering ways have led to any semblance of a cultural expertise.
If you’re interested in knowing about the brief experience of traveling somewhere new and learning to adapt, wanderers are perfect. But for the wanderers who claim to know about the “best Parisian restaurants” or the “top places to shop in Madrid” after a measly few days of brushing through? I’m just not interested. Nearly ever blogger I stumble upon these days seems obsessed with proving their expertise, which amounts to nothing more than superficiality. So many nomadic bloggers pose as experts, and it’s honestly a little embarrassing.
I don’t trust those bloggers.
As my thoughts melt into slush, these painfully poor travel writers keep droning on and on and on and on. And on. Everything is magical and perfect, and the “Best thing you could possibly do here even though I only visited for a week.” If not for the fact that I enjoy travel writing, I’d ignore them all together. They’re also just boring. (There, I said it).
If you’re interested in an authentic New Zealand experience, or knowledge of Koh Tao, Thailand, these writers will help you. I can’t. Not yet, anyways. Even if I were to visit for a week, I wouldn’t have expertise. Stories to share, of course. But that’s entirely different.
And curiously, many travelers I meet don’t seem to care about the culture around them. They’re happy to follow the advice of the wanderer. Checking off the paintings, cities, countries and bucket list moments matters more than observing the people surrounding their minuscule horizon. So they dash across Europe or Asia in a drunken stupor, snapping photos with their friends, entirely ignorant of the family only steps behind who manages an outlying German farm, or whose French children attend a private Jewish school because the public one subjected them to immeasurable bullying.
These families, these people, go unnoticed by the uninterested wanderer.
They’re not part of the bucket list.
There’s nothing wrong with being an internal wanderer. There’s nothing wrong with wandering across the globe so you can prove you’ve been there. Just don’t use the places you’ve been to as leverage to sound cool or interesting, and don’t pretend you’re an expert, unless you took the time to actually observe the culture.
That’s the missing component, isn’t it? Culture.
I love the type of adventure that you get when you’re reading a book. Something that immerses you in the culture of an area, where the places matter, where personal stories collide, and superficiality disintegrates the more you read and discover.
I’m not here to define what culture includes or excludes. My version of a cultural experience may vary from yours. But I am here to say that you shouldn’t trust nomadic travelers attempting to give you in-depth cultural advice. And that traveling without seeking out the heart of a city, or soul or an Irish cliff, is shallow traveling. You may be relaxing, and I respect that, but make no mistake – you’re not “traveling.” I spent a weekend in London drinking with my friends. And I loved it. There’s no shame in spending time relaxing, but I would never claim that I had an immersive, cultural experience. I didn’t travel so much as mimosa my way through a weekend with friends.
On this note, the one request I hear over and over again is for more advice on where to go in Paris. While I have a lengthy post for people moving to Paris, I haven’t provided as much practical information on where to go, what to see, etc., from a local perspective. These next few weeks before I leave the country again (announcement coming soon, I promise), I’ll be running a mini Guide Series, where I’ll attempt to incorporate cultural advice into the typical tourist spots. So keep an eye out!
Just remember: wander to revive yourself, spend time with loved ones, and breathe. Shamelessly.
Travel to remember the faces. Travel to hear the intonations of the unknown languages still ringing in your confused ears. Travel to recall the tastes and smells you couldn’t quite decipher.
Wander for yourself. Wander for your personal bucket list. And travel for the world. Because I believe that with travel, with the attempt to understand other people and other cultures, we may begin to eliminate the prejudices that plague us. Given the current events in Paris and “Je Suis Charlie,” overcoming prejudice, and attempting to understand other cultures, matters more than ever. With travel, maybe, just maybe, we may begin to deconstruct cultural boundaries and actually communicate with one another.
That’s why traveling is beautiful.