My sister has recently rediscovered Reader’s Digest Magazine at the public library. It’s the most eclectic mix of articles to ever share the same page. The June/July 2011 issue featured two short excerpts from Paul Theroux’s book The Tao of Travel. The article included a short list called “The Essential Tao of Travel.” I really liked this list and added my own commentary on each item.
1. Leave Home
You’d think this was obvious, that travel means leaving home. Some people bring all of home with them – their stuff, their stress, and their problems. Some people go to the same place every year, which, to me, is like staying home. You have a routine. You have your favorite restaurant. To me the joy of travel includes the anticipation of leaving, the actual adventure, and then reflecting and sharing when you return home.
2. Go Alone
There are so many places I want to go. I love it when friends or family members share the journey with me. Someone else understands how spicy the food was, how close to the lions you were, or how long the train ride was. When I graduated college I lived in Lake Tahoe. I worked in a hotel, so my days off varied each week. For those two years, I was the master of going alone. I camped in Yosemite and Crater Lake, visited San Francisco, toured Universal Studios, and drove Highway 1 down the coast. I had never been to California prior to moving to Tahoe, so there was so much to see and do, I couldn’t wait for someone to go with me or I would miss out. My biggest go alone experience was traveling to Thailand for a month in 2009. I made friends once I arrived, but I landed in Bangkok at 1am not knowing a soul.
3. Travel Light
This is a work in progress. With the airlines charging baggage fees, I am more motivated to fit everything into my carry-on. The less you carry, the less you have to lose. And the most interesting places don’t have bellmen. Going on a cruise? Go ahead and bring your party dresses for formal night. But in the middle of the Serengeti, no one cares if you wear the same pants every day.
4. Bring a Map
I’m blaming my mom, but I love maps. Do I stand around on busy intersections holding a map half the size of my body? No. But do I have one in my purse or backpack to reference while I’m drinking coffee or people watching in the park? Yes.
5. Go by Land
You miss things when you fly. How do tourist sites like the Mitchell Corn Palace and Wall Drug stay in business? The great American road trip. Every year millions of families drive to South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills. Most of them continue on to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Traveling by land you meet people. You stop at random diners in the middle of nowhere. You can stand somewhere beautiful all by yourself and take a photo. Internationally traveling by land gives you an even better feel of the culture. German businessmen on the high speed commuter trains. Thai kids yelling “I love you” when you pedal by on your bicycle. Being the only gringos on a boat tour of Sumidero Canyon in southern Mexico.