Saturday, April 26, 2014

Self discovery

Travel is supposed to broaden one's mind. I think it also allows you to delve deeper into what's already existing as well.

Here are some of the insights I gleaned about my travelling-self.

1. My way or the high way
I’m a pretty impatient person on a regular day--and when it comes to travelling, that part is super heightened because-- So little time, so much to do!! I need to make sure that I’m doing things in the most efficient way to maximise the trip (this doesn't necessarily mean squeezing in all the sights-- it just means no waiting around!). Else behold the wrath of passive-aggressive, grumpy travelling Rachel! For instance, if I’m the best navigator in the group, I'm going to take full custody of the map and you are just gotta follow my pace. No time to waste telling you which subway line to take or why we are walking north-easterly in this tiny alleyway.  If you don’t like it, either learn to read a map or go your own way.

2.I’m a travel snob
I have a love and hate affair with being a tourist, and I abhor anything that is remotely touristy. (I just have this delusional idea that I’m an extremely well-travelled world citizen) Of course, the irony is not (entirely) lost on me. Everything I know about a place before I go is read off the internet, most likely written by a tourist, so what makes me think I’d be the first to discover XXX? For instance, when it comes to eating, I have this highly irrational barometer called “are there any angmohs in the joint”. And if they are, this would instantly bring my enjoyment of the place down by 30%, because the place is not longer "undiscovered". (Obviously this only applies to Asian countries) Double the irony there because I usually read reviews written by ANG MOHS! Note to self: learn the local language and read some local blogs!

3. I’m a food snob
I go either really cheap or the other end of the spectrum. I love street food and love to eat where locals do, even if its dirty, dodgy or by the road. On the other hand, I don’t believe in scrimping (within reason) since I’ve already travelled so far, I don’t mind spending on expensive meals in the best restaurants (of course, not having much money, I do things like eat at those places during lunches). I just turn up my nose at mid-range, chain restaurants or those in touristy areas—as I have a mental schema that those would be not value for money or not authentic. Mostly I’m right on the money, but I stand correctly on occasion, since standards differ across country. For example, even the restaurants opposite the Duomo in Florence had such beautiful and affordable food, whereas the kaiseki place smack in the middle of Gion I knew was a mistake the minute I stepped foot in (which self-respecting kaiseki place has proper seats instead of those uncomfortable tatami mats? (p/s: Yoshinoya in Japan is dirt cheap, chain but the best fastfood ever)

4. I’m getting old!
I get tired and grumpy on any flights over 4 hours these days, have to take pre-emptive motion sickness pills, and need days to recover from travel. When can I ever afford business class?! 

5. Same same but different

Getting tired of the touristy sights interspersed with shopping and eating. I’m not sure whether this is me being jaded or the world is getting smaller—it really is all Uniqlo and Starbucks and McDs and busloads of tourists whether in bamboo forests or snowy mountains or Gothic churches. Buying souvenirs seems passe now since everyone travels so frequently that no one really cares about receiving gifts from foreign lands that they would be visiting in the next month, or can buy from taobao. Even uploading photos and checking in on FB (which was not big until the last few years) feels like a social obligation (As someone said…“whats the point of travelling if no one knew you were away?”). Yet, I feel inertia to go on REAL adventures to Cuba or North Korea or New Caledonia or Bhutan, and lack the courage to pick up snowboarding or horseriding or diving... 

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