LOCAL TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE. When talking about travel and our experiences, my friends and I always continue to bring up the idea that travel goes well beyond holidaying and snaps. We are puzzled at how people could satisfy themselves by sleeping in cloistered hotels, only leaving on buses to voyeuristically look at tourist traps and monuments. How one could invest time and money to leave home on holidays only to seek refuge in the familiar fast-food chains and Westernised clubs, escaping tight 9-to-5 schedules only to be on tighter schedules to fit within 4-hour package tours. How people cross the globe for experiences that they could find simply crossing the street.
Yet local travel appears to be one of those things that people can talk about but have difficult defining. Many of us can tell you what it is not; few can tell you what it is, and where they do, they come up with some vague or cliche statement such as ‘immersing yourself in the local culture’. For those who, like us, are never satisfied with the touristy experience, who see it being just as mundane as never having left your home in the first place, it’s difficult for many of us to get out there and discover the world as the locals see it.
That’s when I realised, it’s about one’s ability to see the beauty in the experience around them. The human mind has an extraordinary ability to tell the artificial from the genuine. For the traveller it comes only only in observing their environment, but in their propensity to learn through them. It came to me in the lead-up to my first solo backpacking adventure; I had been intending to read Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist for a long time, and was also doing readings on art and culture. As I ventured from place to place, I found myself in the shoes of Coelho’s young shepherd finding his ‘Personal Legend’ in the comparable to my own: losing things, getting around with locals, striking conversation and taking valuable insight from those I happened to share lodging or transport with. And in every single one of those experiences, he learned.
Yet when I told my friends in the countries I went to about the places I went, they would wonder why on earth I went there. For many, these places are just their everyday, or boring. It struck me upon returning to routines of work and study why it is easy to dismiss one’s own home as the most boring place on earth. How many of us have been abroad so many times and yet don’t even know the names of half the suburbs in our own city? What about those who aren’t fortunate enough to travel often? Are they bound to only reading a single page of the book of the world? Once again, it’s not about circumstance but attitude. Many of us are fixated to mundane routines that we forget to see the beauty of the places we live in. Returning home from a stint abroad I felt this sense of wonder at visiting places, institutions, faces that, prior to my departure, were just utilities and routine. A traveller would walk down our main streets as though they were living the story book of the place – and learn so much from just being there. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could see beauty in the everyday the way we do as adventurers? If people seek across-the-street experiences one the other side of the globe, maybe they just haven’t contemplated the beauty of those experiences at home.
And so it brings me to this blog. Local travel is about developing this intimate relationship with the places you visit, be it a suburb on the other side of town, or a city on the other side of the world. Each post will focus on, reaveal and uncover a single neighbourhood in a single city. One post, one neighbourhood, once city, one day at a time, we share our experiences with places that mean so much to us: as locals, or as travellers who felt like locals for a day. Like the travels of Coelho’s shepherd, travel is spiritual and intimate; but one needs to go to the most intimate places. So with each post, we hope not only to share intimate and personal experiences from the places we grew up in and the places we visit, but to challenge you to local travel: come, see for yourself and develop your own. You may have been there, but have you done this?