Backpack and Suitcase

“Luxury is the enemy of observation, a costly indulgence that induces such a good feeling that you notice nothing. Luxury spoils and infantilizes you and prevents you from knowing the world. That is its purpose, the reason why luxury cruises and great hotels are full of fatheads who, when they express an opinion, seem as though they are from another planet. It was also my experience that one of the worst aspects of travelling with wealthy people, apart from the fact that the rich never listen, is that they constantly groused about the high cost of living – indeed, the rich usually complained of being poor.”

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux cannot describe it any better. However, I don’t have anything against luxurious travel, it depends on what you’re looking for when you decided to go somewhere: to be a backpack traveler or a suitcase traveler. Being in a luxurious trip is not all bad too; you work hard to earn money, why not spending it on the trip?

For me, being a traveler require anonymity and a curious mind. Being a ghost in another land where nobody knows you, along with a curiosity to explore the new place will put the mind into an inspirational state. Like an old time traveler: writing notes and fully living in the present to tell the stories to the people back at home. Anonymity requires a certain degree of blending in with the locals. It may seems contradictory, but to really know the place means to live like the people living there. Ride the local bus or train, eat local food at the market, and share stories where locals usually hang out.

While other traveler maybe need companionship and certainty. They don’t like being thrown into spontaneous action, they prefer a fast airplane rather than a long train journey. They like comfortable situation and sightseeing at the same time, like people go into a zoo, watching lions and gorillas and elephants from a distance. Nothing wrong with that… Depending on the people I go with, sometimes I prefer to be in that kind of trip.

However, I feel that to really know the places, to really observe, one have to be in a certain set of mind. Luxury can easily distracting, and more often than not that I find myself a memorable experience from the kindness of strangers, which is hard to find in luxury trip.

These are not options, simply just a description. Choose one or be both, the important thing is to see the world 🙂

Birds in Trees - Andrew Dai

A Stranger in a City

Walking alone on Pont des Arts bridge, across the River Seine, I saw an old couple smile happily, locking their padlock to the bridge. It was a simple red padlock, and maybe what was written with black marker was their name. The key was thrown to the river and the couple kissed. As they walked past me, I heard the old man said that it was stupid while still smiling, and the old lady said that it was fun, while holding his hand.

I watched them as they walked down the bridge, feeling grateful at the warm feeling they gave me. Continue reading “A Stranger in a City”