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9 May 2011

Wander & Wonder

What do you like to do when you are in a new place? Are you there as a traveller or a tourist? A tourist is there for pleasure and just that. The experience is what life has inevitably thrown at the tourist. A traveller, on the other hand, is there first for the experience - the reason for arrival may be any, even not self-induced. A tourist fits into the realm of a definition of a traveller but not the other way round.

Having heard one too many times about quiet holidays and stinky crowds, I was quite surprised to meet a vacationer who loved to see cities - the bigger the better. It cleared a mental block, the myth that everyone on holiday is running from city life. He insisted that cities did not necessarily mean crowds. He visited places during the off-season, thereby avoiding the swarm. 

As I trawl through scores of travelogues, I notice the subtle differences in preferences. From a broad view of classifying travellers as tourists and travellers, then further as those who like to do touristy things or not or a bit of both, now I find that the list can be endless. The choices available to a traveller are far too many and permutations of those selections belie any earlier belief that one travelogue can cater to all. 

Why did you make the trip? How did you make the trip? What kind of places do you like to stay at? What do you like to see and do? Who do you like to go with? Do you like it planned or spur-of-the-moment? Long or short duration? How do you like to commute once there? How do you plan your budget? 

Give it a shot, try answering those questions. You will realize that for each question you answered, there are a subset of questions that follow. As those are answered, there are further subsets. You tick off multiple answers, for the sake of flexibility, and find yourself presented with a subset for the areas shaded with multiple colours (picture Venn Diagrams). What's more? That was not even the exhaustive list of questions, merely the ones off the top of my head.

As this realization struck, another questions jumped out at me. How do travel-writers write those guides that get so popular, without being too generic? Turns out that rule #1 of travel writing is finding different angles. Apparently, you should be able to find atleast 20 that are unique and worthy. Then you pick your best few angles and write a few pieces. Some sell, some don't. And you thought travel writing was easy? All you had to do was vomit your trip details on a page and clap the dust off your palms? There is an eye-opener.

All this is just what I have gleamed in 10 months and 4 countries of travelling. A little voice in my head says to me that there will be a lot more clearing mental blocks and sponging off dark spots before I am able to absorb enough to give some back. Disheartening but challenging. As the Aussies say, I will "see how I go".

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