Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Maturing Journeyman: Musings on a Journey Towards Becoming a More Responsible Traveler

Respect for culture is as important as admiration for the physical landscape
Maturity.  Yes, it comes with growing older.  Though one can be young and yet have a more mature outlook of the world, 'no?  It is a word I've come to know and internalize more and more as a traveler and as an explorer; yes, because I'm getting advanced in years, and also because as a journeyman, I can't be still and locked in the place where I started.

Granted, I haven't been traveling often the past couple of years, saddled by efforts to make a living.  But hey, that's life.  After nearly 15 years of traveling and travel blogging, I can't be the same person who started off trying to go to as many places as possible, to find a cure of itchy feet.  Admittedly, I've got to also face the fact that that I do not like the direction that travel and blogging is taking these days -- celebrity over place, form over substance, predictability over adventure. I admit it was fun playing one upmanship in the early days with "I've been to this place and you haven't" games but it gets old fast.   I've come to know so-called, self-pronounced "blogger-adventurers" who keep count of so many provinces, so many places reached with little attention paid to immersing in these places nor knowing the locals on a more personal level.  Anyway, that's just me.
A week of rain makes the scenery ethereally foggy

One thing I've also realized that social media, while may have helped "democratize" traveling, has also brought unrealistic expectations, romanticizing places that could not handle mass tourism and has therefore suffered from long-lasting effects that may outlive this popularity.  Apps like TripAdvisor, which could be helpful, also brought up a generation of "whiners", tourists who needlessly complain when their actual experience did not mirror that of this celebrity they watched or blogger they followed.   Talk about guests who expect the luxuries and creature comforts of a hotel from a homestay, for example.  Or inquirers who request to be billeted to an air-conditioned room high up in the Cordilleras.  How's that for a great disconnect in what is a highly-connected world?

The surfeit of travel shows and continued following of "celebrity travel bloggers" has contributed little to traveler education, of how to travel responsibly.  It has always been this "travel and enjoy, make noise, the louder the better" drivel.  In this age of what naturalist, Bill Mckibben, term as "hyperindividualism,"  this is clearly an ingredient for making places meant for solitude and introspection, another venue for filling the silence with noise.  Sort of like horror vacui or kenophobia where people just want to fill empty spaces with stuff, silence with loud noises.  I'm a big believer in "live and let live" but last time I checked, shouting and screaming as if in perpetual drunken stupor in a really quiet place is not being respectful of other tourists and visitors who came to the place to escape the noise.
Responsible travel also means respect for the wildlife
Maybe, it's part of maturing when a vacation doesn't have to be a "wall-to-wall" itinerary of things to do.    I look strange when I tell people who ask what I did during my last week-long vacation.  My answer is a lot of nothing.  I read and read.  Played with the dogs.  Went birding in between squalls.  Talked to the locals.  Slept.  Meditated.  Connected to the trees, the earth, nature.  A friend named Satinka is one of the few who understands it when I said I need to recharge in the boondocks.  She says, "the city really takes a lot of your energies really fast."

It can be too much to expect that a lot of people would understand, I know.  But I can't keep from hoping.  Hoping that we wouldn't run out of places to escape the noise and the stress.  Keeping my fingers crossed that as more people get their travel groove, a number of them   would do so with a responsible frame of mind.   Hopeful that as more people embrace travel as a way of life, they can realize that exploring is not the same as exploiting.  Respect for the culture, the environment, the locals and our differences isn't being a killjoy; it's part of being a traveler so please, don't leave home without them.


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