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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Travel and Learn

Lin Yutang said it best in his book on “The Importance of Living”. “A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going. A perfect traveler is one who does not even remember where he came from”. Let us also note that a traveler is different from a tourist.

Recently I came across an article in the American Airlines in-flight magazine. It was about people who enjoy travels and it was based on answers to several questions by these veteran travelers. I found it very interesting. I tried to answer some of those same questions, based on my travels.

My philosophy: Immerse in the culture of the place; this means their food, their literature and their traditions.
Best lessons learnt: There is no one correct way to do things. Different cultures have accomplished great things using different methods.
Best advice for travel: Travel light; be organized; but, be flexible.
Favorite destinations: Kuai, Bali, Crater Lakes, Guilin, Cappadocchia and Santorini
Best food: Italy, Thailand in that order
Best Restaurant: A small one in Sulawesi (udung padang?) which served a spicy pumpkin soup in a pumpkin shell and steamed, delicious main dish (fish or chicken) wrapped in banana leaf steamed in a bamboo shell!!
Best ice-cream: Davidoff at Sorrento, Italy (Amalfi coast)
Best café: Café Pedrocchi at Padua, Italy
Cannot travel without: my Journal for writing notes
Best impromptu experience: Basket ball game at Chengdu; visit to the Temple of Poseidon
How to beat jetlag: No tricks I know of. Just sleep it off
Longest time away: Italy
Conquer nervousness by: listen to music; meditate
Nostalgic for: home base and home food

Paulo Coelho of Brazil, who is one of my favorite authors, has a different set of suggestions for travels, in his book on “Like the Flowing River” (Madison Park Press,2006). They are: Avoid museums, hang out in bars, be open, travel alone or with your spouse, do not compare, understand that everyone understands you, do not buy too much, and do not try to see too much in too short a time. I have followed most of these ideas myself, particularly exploring cities on my own and eating the local food. I agree with Mr.Coelho.

What Mr.Coelho means is that it is more interesting to go in search of the present than of the past (museum) and that it is best to go to places where you can meet people (bars). You will learn so much more by talking to people and you will be surprised how friendly and helpful they are even when they do not understand your language. If you go with tours, you will not be free to explore. It is better to spend money on theatre tickets, trips and restaurants instead of buying things and paying for excess luggage! After all you can buy anything you want sitting at your computer!