Thursday, September 13, 2012

Traveling Beliefs: Human Unity and Hospitality

We are all the same when you dig deep enough.
You depend on the local network of people and their resources when traveling.
Most people are honest, helpful, friendly and hospitable. 
People care for each other. 
The world will provide you what you need.

So relax and enjoy the ride.

How do the above beliefs show in your actions?

You don't have to bring everything with you

You know, we have shops selling clothes, shampoo and nailpolish here. We do laundry too. Do bring your presciption medicine.

I do carry my pink mini-laptop on my every trip. Its nice for working, checking weather reports and doing hotel reservations for the rainy days.
The best free site to see weather in European countries is Norway's weather service

You don't have to read the travel guides beforehand

Locals have the best knowledge of the best places anyway, just trust them. Lots of great places are not listed in guides. For example, most guides of Italy miss the holy mountains in the north. People go to Asia for mountain retreats while we have great places for meditation and working right here. In both cases you'll be budget bunking in spectacular places.

I used to read Lonely Planet guides. But doing that was a chore! And then when I was traveling, I found myself in a queue with others carrying the same book. Often the best things have nothing to do with sights listed in guides - like learning new skills from local experts. Or seeing local plays or concerts. Meeting local people.

Also, in many European countries tourist offices have excellent services. If you have not made a schedule too tight, you'll have time to read their condensed brochures in some place nice.

You don't have to book everything beforehand

It is quite easy to find a place to stay on the fly. Having pre-made reservations just forces you to follow some pre-made plan.

Of course, if you want to go to some specific event and that is important to you, do make the reservations beforehand. But for general travel, it is not needed. Also, you may well find more interesting places to stay and they are often much cheaper than you'd find online.

We have not made any reservations for a long time. Based on our experience, we have not been able to stay where we wanted only 1% of the time. In those few cases we have tried to get an accommodation on the fly during some major local event. What happened then? We just continued to another town.

There is something to see everywhere

Where there are people, there is something to see and learn.

You don't have to carry everything all the time

Just trust the locals - and smile (they may be afraid of you). Check out what locals do in general and then follow the example.

In most European countries we feel quite safe leaving most of our stuff to the "hotel". Smaller the place, more you can trust them. Not needing to carry everything makes it so much easier to go around. Admittedly, we are minimalists and don't carry much luggage anyway. There isn't much to rob from us - and we always judge the situation case by case.

To this day, we have not been robbed. If we get too trusty, the locals will warn us. Just a couple of days ago we were approached by an Italian gentleman who told us that we were fine leaving our motorcycle helmets laying on the bike in their town. But he warned us that the bigger cities are full of immigrants who will not hesitate to steal our stuff. Lovely. We took the advice.

You'll entertain the locals with your act

Remember how we all are the same? You may not feel like that when you travel. But keep your mind open. You'll soon see how much of your beliefs of what is proper behaviour is just that - beliefs.

As you often don't know how to behave "normally" in the target culture, the best thing is to laugh at it (unless you really hurt someone with your behaviour). Let the locals have their fun on your account.

Above the friendly common core, people come in all flavors. Some cultures you'll connect immediately with, some not. For an American coming to Scandinavia, I'd assume the behaviour there feels cold to him. It always depends on what you expect.

Like, coming from Finland, I don't expect parents to kiss their children to the mouth. It took me by a surprise when I saw that first time. But in general, Europe is lame on that account. You'll not find old ladies munching on their grandson's genitals. (The Fearful Adventurer is a lovely blog, check it out)  

When I go to Germany from Finland, germans feel overly friendly and polite. When I go to Germany after staying in Italy, germans feel tacky and remote. Always when I go to Poland, it feels like home - no extra superficial smiles wasted ;)

Does the above sound awkward?

Do you feel that you could not enjoy traveling like that? No problem. There are no requirements here. Pick the stuff that you feel comfortable with.

The above beliefs are just what I've found compatible with traveling. You are free to sport your own.

This is Part II of the Travel Series, you might also want to read the Part I.

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