How do you prepare for a trip? Do you list all the sites you want to see, and then make sure that you see all of them? Or do you just plan as you go along?
As a solo traveler by choice, I’m the second type of traveler. I like going with the flow when I’m traveling, and it’s not as easy to do when you have someone with you, especially one who is very conscious about following any itinerary previously planned. I do check out what’s been written about a place I’m about to visit, but I’m not compulsive about it. I go with the flow, I listen to what my body is telling me, and I admit that I prioritize the getting there part rather than the destination itself. For me, the journey itself is the destination and not just the means to go somewhere.
When I went to Kota Kinabalu in 2010, for example, I had so many things lined up. I wanted to do some island hopping and go see the rafflesia in the Kinabalu National Park. I wanted to visit the Butterfly Farm and go snorkeling in one of the islands. When I arrived in my hotel, however, I met a Couchsurfing member who wanted to go whitewater rafting in Padas, and instead of sticking to my itinerary, I chose to go with her and had a really good time. Later on, I had a choice of staying up all night with a few locals to watch the final game of the World Cup, or sleeping early to go island hopping the next day. I chose to be with the locals.
For me, then, the essence of traveling is not just ending up with jumpshots in front of famous landmarks. What’s more important is how I got there and who I met along the way. It’s my interaction with the people and my experience of the events that make my travels memorable. I may not be able to remember how many temples in the Angkor Archaelogical Complex I had visited, but I do remember the kids who sold me souvenir items, especially the girl who had exchanged her Mickey Mouse dangling earrings with mine. Those are memories I treasure, not the sites itself.
Some people want to travel just to see immigration stamps on their passports so that they can get bragging rights that they’d been there. While this goal is as valid as any other, I would rather have the experience than the stamps. For example, this year, I went for the first time to Beijing, Pattaya, Bangkok, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur—and while I can’t say that I’ve seen all the sites that these places are famous for, I can tell a hundred and one stories of the people I met while I was on the road.
That’s what traveling is for me. What is it for you? Do share!
This is my entry to the 14th Blog Carnival of the Pinoy Travel Bloggers called “Travel is the Destination” hosted by Kara Santos of Travel Up.
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Aleah Taboclaon is a freelance writer and editor. She likes running (completed one marathon, training for the next!), diving (PADI open water diver), and traveling with her Kindle. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. You can also email her; she would love to hear from you!