Learning to travel

travel os maps

I was trying to work out the other day when it is you stop just “going on holiday” and instead start “travelling”. Is there really a difference? I mean, you can obviously travel out being on holiday, but can you holiday without travelling?

When you’re a child you’re normally just taken on holiday, but I do know some lucky children who would describe themselves as going travelling. Strangely, for me, I think there was an obvious moment when I realised the difference.

I was “on holiday” with my parents up on the west coast of Scotland. My Dad was off taking photos somewhere and being a typical stroppy teenager I stayed in the car. This being before mobile phones I picked up the Rough Guide (probably the one for the Scottish Highlands and Islands) and started leafing through it. I found myself in the section for Ullapool (a place I am now desperate to return to) and remember suddenly realising that I was reading  listings for laundrettes and where you could get internet access locally (this dates the story).

It was reading those listings that I suddenly had this lightbulb moment in which I realised that travelling was different to being on holiday. On holiday you tend to go where where you want to go and then come home again, bringing your dirty washing home with you. Travelling you look at places totally differently. You try and understand how the locals live. You don’t just go to the main tourist sites, but instead you try and get a feel of how the locals live.

Years ago, I used to attend a series of European conferences for young engineers. At them we talked lots about the mobility of engineers across Europe and how we could better ourselves by travelling and understanding the different work cultures. One important lesson I was taught by a German delegate was that to properly travel somewhere you needed to work out how to take public transport and also find and eat the local fast food. When I first heard this I just laughed, but then the more I thought about it, the more I realised he was right. It’s now exactly what I try to do whenever I go somewhere new.

It’s also not just about the destination, but the journey to get there. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of train travel, but I’ve also got a soft spot for ferries and any other slower mode of transport. Air travel is fine, but you don’t get to see as much from the air as you do when on land or sea. As a child I watched Michael Palin’s Around the World in 80 Days and I was hooked.

Yes he want to some amazing destinations (and was the reason I was always so keen to visit Hong Kong) but it was so much more about the travel adventure to get around the world. The modes of transport, the routes they took and the people that he met during the journey. If I ever had a travel dream it would be to recreate that journey and share it online. It really would be the ultimate bit of travelling.

I might not be able to afford to take 80 days out to travel around the world, but I try to squeeze in as much travel as I can (both close to home and further away) and plan to share as much of it as possible. I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

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