Last night at a dinner with friends we got to the topic of traveling. All three of us have traveled and we could all share stories from our experiences.
One friend then lamented that she could not travel nearly as much as she wanted to. I made the argument that it doesn’t really matter where you travel, it matters who you are with. It is a variation on the mindset game. I am convinced that you can travel to the most beautiful place on earth and be perfectly miserable, if you decide to be that way.
I am also convinced that you can travel to the most mundane place you can think of and find beauty and excitement, if you happen to go look for it.
The most important thing I have found during my wandering the earth is, that the more open and unassuming you are regarding a destination, the better the experience will be. I learned that both in the positive and the negative sense. Or as some people say, I also learned this the hard way.
For example, when I was in my teenage years, I went to Venice. Oh Venice, I thought. What a beautiful city, what history, how romantic, I will love, love love it! The problem was, that I was there during a very hot summer. You might wonder why that was a problem. Well, all those photos and videos of Venice do not come with an authentic smell. So the problem was that the place stank to the heavens. And I’m sorry, I cannot really appreciate beauty, if I am steadily confronted with olfactory insults.
I have heard that since then, the city has been considerably cleaned up and most of the smell is taken care of. Nevertheless, I was mostly disappointed because I thought I am going to visit the best place ever and it didn’t hold up to my impossibly high standards.
Another example was our visit to Tunisia. I went and thought: “This is Africa, it will be hot.” It is the most northern part of Africa and we went in winter. It was cold. So, while I was freezing my behind off, I was unhappy that this place did not adhere to my preconceived notions. I have learned since then and check the weather forecast of the place we are going to before departure.
On the positive side, I have been to many places in the world that held much more beauty and wonder than most people want to credit.
For example, I lived for a while in Essen. Essen is not usually mentioned as one of the German attractions. It is part of the Ruhrpot. An area of cities that grew into one connected region along the Rhine river, that is known for coal mining, steel manufacturing, car building, a lot of hard and dirty work and cold architecture.
One of my college friends took it upon herself to show me that this image is much too general to be true. We went to lovely lakes, we explored breathtaking museums and we found a cultural scene that blew my socks off. My friend knew the places, I had the open mind to go with and learn.
These are just a few examples of my personal experiences. I won’t bore you with more.
Just do me a favor, go and travel. And when you do; go with an open mind. Be it to the Himalaya, or Indianapolis, Hawaii, or Detroit. Every place has wonders to be explored. Go out and enjoy them!