In this post i share how travel opened me up to new experiences. Not just in terms of visiting unfamiliar places and clicking pics and selfies. But challenging some of my core beliefs and assumptions i had grown so used to!
Most of my pre-held notions were typical for a person living in India to have, since we already are a huge country with a diverse culture. But travel makes us receptive to new ideas. At least that’s one thing i tried to do.
Read on to find out those 5 major instances when i was proved WRONG.
1. “People in the West are Materialistic”
This is a common idea we mostly tend to have in traditional cultures. But when i went to Europe, i found people are quite empathetic. And caring and helpful!
People in the more developed countries do try to ensure they have basic comforts (and they work hard for it) and a decent standard of living. But I rarely found material possessions taking too much precedence over emotional well-being.
As a solo traveler, i often turned to help from locals, sometimes just to interact with them, even if i knew the answers (and directions to places). This was a social experiment of sorts, which came about unintentionally. It really helped me overcome inhibitions, to think on my feet, and interact better!
2. “There is a cultural of over-exposure”
And i was proved wrong again! Perhaps it’s the media which presents the general culture as being overtly expressive and publicity oriented. Or just one of my misinterpretations.
Instead, most people i met really valued their privacy. People strive hard to maintain a balance between their work-life, personal life and fun-life.
Even nudity is not a big deal in Europe. I was quite surprised to know this. No one makes a hue and cry out of it. It’s just part of normal life and permitted in certain public areas. People STILL value their privacy a lot.
3. “All of Europe is the same”
No, it’s not. Every country has distinct languages and cultural norms. People have even different work ethics and priorities. Holidays and timings are different – even within one country or a state. Festivals can be different. Geographical features are so diverse! And so is the food. Country by country. Region by region!
Majority of the old town centres in the cities might look similar, but could be quite different in character and constitution. Barri Gothic in Barcelona is not the same as Gamlastan in Stockholm. Neither are the German “Altstadt” the same as the French promenades. It is amazing how these old parts of the town have been revitalized as thriving tourist areas. Right in the middle of expanding cosmopolitans!
4. “Tech is indispensable to Travel”
By “tech” i mean smartphones for finding directions, DSLRs for taking pictures, and numerous apps for tracking budgets and bus timings and nutrition and fitness.
I decided to ditch all of this in favour of a simple feature phone and a point and shoot camera with good-enough resolution. Also had me worry less about the safety of my belongings. I could truly enjoy my excursions and adventures.
When i lost my way, or for common questions, i turned to locals for information and help! And no one tried to fool me with misleading tactics. Guess i was lucky!
5. “We take pictures to build memories and capture moments”
Not always so. We also take pictures which are “instaworthy” and “fit” for a Facebook-profile! As a solo traveler, again, i returned the favour by clicking photos of other solitary strangers. But sometimes i got a very specific request like:
“Make sure you take a picture which looks good on Facebook!”.
“Hey, my hands look a little fat in this pic. Can you take a better one, please?”
🙂 Not that i’d mind, but i realized my repetitive clothing and lack-luster posing may not hold good while posting pics on FB. I was not much of a “like-minded” person back then. But i did begin to wonder – what’s the point in taking those pictures with monuments if no one likes the way i look :-/ Though you’ll still find me posing in repetitive clothing because it makes it easy to carry the backpack!
But how did i manage to clean all the clothes on the go? That’s reserved for another blog post!
Extra – “Travelling is about visiting all the Trendy places in the Cities”
You guessed it. I had to be proved wrong here.
Before planning my itineraries based on something like “Top 10 places to visit in Berlin”, i found myself going more often to “offbeat” places.
Closer to nature.
Sometimes to take a break from the museums and monuments.
Hiking. Trekking. Snow-jogging.
Next in line would be East Asia and Japan! It’s not fair to have some biases about traveling in Europe alone 🙂
I’m sure when i re-visit Europe, i’ll still get far more new ideas to contend with! And the rate at which my beliefs were challenged had little to do with how much time i spent at a particular place. It was more about how receptive i was to newer contexts and willing to go out of the comfort zone to talk to strangers!
You may have some defining moments from your travel experiences as well. Do share them in the comments below!