I’ve been on the road now since the end of 2008 and I have no plans to stop moving. In this time, I’ve refined my perspective and culled some general pointers which have served me well. I’m elaborating on them in a new section of my blog entitled, creatively, travel tips.
Don't try to do it all. The notion that you can “do” a country or even a city is flawed from the get-go, so forget it. Just forget it. I used to visit all the famous sites and museums because, well, what's a trip to Paris without the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower? But if you ask me to remember a highlight from my time in Paris in a bitterly cold February, the first thing I'll tell you is how I stayed tucked under the blankets in a warm hotel room as my then-boyfriend bundled into the cold and around the block to buy fresh croissants for a breakfast in bed. Or maybe I'll tell you about my love affair with old Mini Coopers and how I took more photos of those absurdly adorable cars than I did of the traditional Parisian sites.
These days I've admitted to myself that I'm just not interested in art museums, and you know what? I'm a much happier traveler because of it. I'll still go out of my way for a textile, ethnographic, or curio museum, but unless it's free, I've got an afternoon to kill, and it happens to be in my way, you won't find me in an art museum. And that's okay.
Travel is not a scavenger hunt. It's not an attempt to check everything off a must-see list. In fact, I posit that that type of travel will wipe you out and make you crazy. You can't do it all. So figure out what you love, what fuels you, what fills you with energy instead of depletes it—then do those things and do them unabashedly.
If you're like me this means scouring Beirut for the very best falafel sandwich; cycling to a town in Laos to watch women weave mat mii (ikat) fabric on the looms under their stilted houses; watching movies at a guesthouse in northeastern Thailand as a friend recuperates from a motorbike accident; dancing the night away to live folk music in Istanbul; attending a circus performance workshop at a Human Rights Day celebration in Cambodia (see picture, above); helping a middle-age couple, who had picked me up while hitchhiking, pickle vegetables and watermelon for the long Romanian winter in their apartment in Bucharest. These are the memories that shape me and linger with me. These are the experiences that remind me why I travel.