India, Travel

Travel Styles

Brice and I recently had a discussion over dinner about our travel style. As Brice put it, we take with us a little “American bubble” – upgrading from the most basic accommodations or modes of transport so we can travel safely, healthily and, I would be lying if I didn’t admit, comfortably.

But that prompted the philosophical question, at what point is that travel bubble too large so that you aren’t experiencing the culture or understanding the area in which you’re traveling?

This has come up a few times for me during our travels, especially now in India, where we have opted to stay at nicer hotels. Once inside these beautiful, first-world standard hotels, you feel away from the chaos but also could easily forget you’re in India. Is it defeating the point of touring such a country? I’m certainly not here to just see how similar the inside of Marriott Delhi is to the Marriott Seattle, for instance. That being said, these hotels have been a blessing when we’ve had a stressful day exploring (and obviously the perks like a cozy bathrobe are totally lovely!).

But that would we gain if we stayed somewhere more local or less familiar? If we opted for the lowest class on the train, crammed with no air and loads of people for 4 hours, instead of opting for the second-class cabin? Would we learn more about the country, or even ourselves?

I struggle somewhat with these trade-offs. We are on this journey to see the world with its different cultures and drastically varying ways people live. However at the same time, I do have the need to feel safe and healthy, and am lucky enough to have the ability to feel comfortable. Maybe that isn’t a bad thing though – even if I do not experience everywhere like a true local (and frankly, I never really will be able to), perhaps I will travel more as a result of having some feeling of home with me.

Do you think comfort conflicts with learning an area? How do you prefer to travel?

Life Update:

What city are we in as I write this?  Amritsar, India – just on the other side of the Pakistani border

What’s the scene?  Listening to some live, traditional folk music

What am I reading?  Needed a fun read after Eleanor Oliphant so now reading Crazy Rich Girlfriend, sequel to Crazy Rich Asians

2 thoughts on “Travel Styles

  1. These are great questions and thoughts to ponder. I used to work in student services and did all the pre-departure and arrival orientations for students who were studying or going to work abroad and studied this as part of my master’s course work. Interestingly, students who came from abroad enjoyed the Canadian experience but also felt that they were “less international” after a semester or a year in Canada due to how homogeneous some aspects of the culture are. On the flip side, some students who went to spend a semester or year abroad volunteering somewhere where there was alot of poverty felt they couldn’t fully immerse themselves in the culture, even if they learned the language and were living in local accommodations eating local food in remote and isolated areas. And in some cases, came back feeling like their whole here was a sham because of how we depend on coporate structures and systems for our basic needs and fullfillment, that there’s a disconnect from nature and humanity. If there was one common thread between the two groups, it was how they progressed to achieve self-actualization, or if they didn’t entirely while abroad. All of that to say that in some parts of the world, it’s more difficult or even impossible for people to have their basic needs provided, let alone achieve self-actualization, and you might feel like you’re cheating when you have options and comforts that many people don’t. The two places we felt the most discomfort in this regard were Cambodia and Sri Lanka and the one place we found it difficult to get a handle on the local culture at all was Dubai. I’d be interested in continuing this discussion in person one day! 🙂

  2. Thanks for your insights, Maxine. I guess you can never fully feel like a local somewhere so different but I have had those feelings of not being abroad like you mentioned, if you’re somewhere so similar (like when we were in London a few weeks back). It’s complicated!

    We are heading to Dubai next, so we’ll certainly have to discuss our experiences after! And yes, an in-person chat would be amazing – someday we’ll end up in the same city at the same time! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *