There is a trinity of travel modes. You might think of these 3 styles as 3 corners of a triangle. Rest. Do. Change.
One corner is Vacation. In this mode, you are trying to optimize rest. You seek out arrangements that reduce uncertainty, and increase relaxation. Beaches, resorts, spas, clubs, high-end hotels all cater to this mode. Comfort is what you pay for. Whenever you upgrade to a higher class this is the mode you choose. For many trips, comfort and relaxation are an escape from the tribulations and stress of the everyday routines, and they are the entire purpose of leaving home. The vacation trip is classic.
One corner is Journey. In this mode you do. You are trying to optimize achievement. Maybe you want to climb to the base camp of Mt. Everest, or ride to every national park in Australia on a motocycle, walk across England, or simply go see your Uncle Edward who lives in a cabin in Alabama. Maybe you are on an amazing race. There is a goal involved, and therefore an end. It is finite. Often the whole point of the journey is simply to be on the journey and the end is arbitrary. But a journey needs your 100% participation, your effort. The journey does not happen without you. It is something you make happen, and whether the trip is successful or not depends on what you do. The journey is a classic trip.
One corner is Experience. In this mode you optimize learning. You deliberately let go of certainty and embrace the unknown, perhaps with no goal in sight. You head into the jungle, or dive into a new language, or you search for a guru, or you try something you’ve never done at home. Sky dive, carry your house on your back, gamble for big bucks. Rather than always going forward, a retreat to quietness is also an experience (and not a vacation), leaving behind comforts in order to provoke change. In learning mode you chase otherness, collecting differences, leveraging the new. There is no end, no finitude. It is all open. Often the best stuff is not what you do, but what happens to you. Success is judged by how much you change. Experience, too, is a classic trip.
Every trip has elements of all 3 modes. A few are perfectly balanced with a equal doses of relaxation, doing, and learning. Some would call that the perfect trip. You rest, you do, you change. Perfection!
That is not the perfect trip for me. The perfect travel for me entails the minimal amount of comfort and achievement that is required in order to maximize learning. I aim my travel to find, cultivate, explore, enhance, and amplify experiences so that I will change and grow. I am happy to ride first class when upgraded, and I sleep better on clean sheets, but I spend my money and energy not on optimizing comforts, but on optimizing new experiences, rewarding uncertainties, and taking some risks. That may include not having everything planned out, and being open to what the universe may bring today. If you miss a few meals, you’ll live! You may even learn to live better.
In the triangle of travel modes I am way over in the third corner. It is extreme, radical. This is not everyone’s style. I “get” vacations and journeys, and have done enough of them myself to fully appreciate their virtues. I honor travel in all modes; it’s good for the soul and mind. All I can say is that I need the extreme case of experiential travel. I crave it. I am obsessed by it. And this idea of maximizing learning and experience deeply colors my talk of travel. So when I discuss traveling the world and why it is important for young people to do it, and why we should even require them to travel, this is what I mean by travel. It is fundamentally a way of growing, of living.
I reached Luang Prabang after a reader to my travel blog provoke to go and see Luang Prabang 10 years ago. I did not know where it was then....
Always look up. (Ongoing series.)
The soup is a morning prayer.
The Backpacker Hostel Dormitory Nightly Ritual
I turned the corner and there it was: the morning market. Goods from the hills, fields and Mekong popped onto the street, a surprising abundance.