Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why I Travel?

I travel a considerable amount and definitely more than recommended. Although hectic and a bit costly nowadays, (damn the oil prices!) travel is a necessary part of my life.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” - St. Augustine

I do believe that preparing, planning and mapping out trips lends direction to the travel while the merchandising qualities of a place lure us into the regular tourist activities. In fact, I relish the time spent in these activities as the extensive research about your destination does come in handy. Albeit the travel preparations do not ruin the chance of spontaneous unplanned excursions it does limit you from exploring the hidden. After all, serendipity is one of the important traits of travels. Though you also need to appreciate the obvious. Travel is a balance between the explored and the hidden. I never have fixed plans but generally I know where I am going. Travel is an education in itself since you learn about the diverse cultures, habits, trivia, history, languages, stories of unique places/things, local food, people, the dynamics of nature and have innumerable experiences which you can't learn from a book.

"Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like a marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it."
- John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley

We get pretty excited and anxious at the start of any journey. We break free from the quotidian and try the new. We experience time away from home. Unexpected pleasures in unexpected places is the foundation of travel.

Space Needle to Space Center:

As the Space needle is synonymous to Seattle and so is the Johnson Space Center (NASA) to Houston. I recently went to both these places on back to back weekends and got a chance to visit these marvels of today.

Both places are landmarks of the respective cities and a must visit if you ever happen to be in the vicinity.

For me travel broadens the perspective to look at the world and definitely lengthens the conversations. I try to squeeze in work sometime with my travels so that atleast the monetary side of the trip is taken care of. I have many unrealized dreams to travel places which I hope to fulfill in the near future. Besides my travels are very closely related to my second hobby 'photography'. I try to take the best out of the two worlds by combining them. Every journey does impart some wisdom upon me.

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” - Seneca

Interacting with people is again a wonderful experience as the conversation starts of with details about where they came from and generally where they’re going next.

I go through many phases of ingenuity, insight, excitement, imagination, delight, endeavor and discovery in my creative travel escapades. "Authenticity" in travel is not found as easily as it might seem.

"For many tourists, the desire for authenticity is rather simplistically expressed in terms of seeking out that which is not contaminated by outside influences—particularly by the presence of other tourists. There are some important things to keep in mind here. First, nearly all tourism experiences are carefully crafted and staged by someone, specifically for our appreciation and consumption. It is more difficult than most of us realize, and not necessarily desirable, to try to get beyond such experiences and intrude into places where we might not be welcome."
--Erve Chambers, "Can the Anthropology of Tourism Make us Better Travelers?", NAPA Bulletin 23, 2005

Ironically, the element of relief while leaving our homes is equally matched with the excitement when returning back. Personally, I do enjoy coming back home and resting my head on the familiar pillow though one must travel to see the world and grow in new directions.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” - Jawaharal Nehru

Pacifica to Atlantica:
From Boston to San Francisco, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the west to the east, from MIT to Stanford, from biotechnology to information technology, from EST to PST, from 1600's to 1800's, from Acorn Street to Lombard Street, from Massachusetts to California, from winter to summer, from Harvard to Berkeley, from Red Sox to the Giants, from Big Dig to Golden Gate, from neighboring New Hampshire to neighboring Nevada, from MBTA to BART, from the Boston Globe to the San Francisco Chronicle, from Revere beach to North beach, from Martha's Vinyard to Lake Tahoe, from Patriots to 49ers, from Museum of Fine Arts to San Francisco Art Institute, from Cambridge to Berkeley, from Boston Tea Party to the California Gold Rush, from 17 NBA titles to none, from the Longwood Medical Area to UCSF, from I-90 to I-80, from Boston Logan to SF International Airport, from the American revolution to America's favorite city I have traveled a long way from Boston to San Francisco.

That is basically the gist of my time in Boston and San Francisco.


1. It Never Gets Old, 2. Lady of Perpetual Help, 3. Statue of Three Lies, 4. Fenway Faithful, 5. NBA Finals, 6. Spring, 7. Sideview, 8. Sunset at Roxbury, 9. Three Piece Reclining Figure, 10. Fiery Red Autumn, 11. Walking Buddies, 12. Enjoy your road trip!, 13. Golden colors

San Francisco:

1. Pier, 2. 'Charms' by the Bay, 3. Clouds on fire, 4. Golden Gate, 5. Bay Bridge, 6. Muir Woods, 7. Beach, 8. Alcatraz, 9. Top-down, 10. Pier 39, 11. Crooked Street, 12. Sausalito, 13. Trail

Many travelers complain that their experience of the place wasn't what they expected. Well, the travel books do preset our minds to expect and perceive certain things on which we build stuff using our imagination based on our pre-existing knowledge while actuality is albeit different. I love the uncertainties of travel which unfortunately get compensated for during the package tours. In fact, many times the reason why you fall in love with the place is seldom the reason why you went there.

Money is definitely not the key to make our travels better. Also, while traveling the simple things are the ones which make it memorable.

Another reason to stop putting off your travels:

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose."
--Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement 2005

If you want to make yourself a to-do list here is a good starting point.
1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List

After all, tourism is among the world's largest industries and vital to many countries. Did you know that tourism can be classified as eco-tourism, celebrity tourism, creative tourism etc. ? Read the Wiki for more on this.

Tourism 2020 Vision is the World Tourism Organization's long-term forecast and assessment of the development of tourism up to the first 20 years of the new millennium.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), is a United Nations agency dealing with questions relating to tourism. It compiles the World Tourism Rankings.

Here is a list compiled by the UNWTO as part of their World Tourism Barometer publication of the ten most visited countries in 2006 by number of travelers.

1 Flag of France France 79.1 million
2 Flag of Spain Spain 58.5 million
3 Flag of the United States United States 51.1 million
4 Flag of the People's Republic of China China 49.6 million
5 Flag of Italy Italy 41.1 million
6 Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom 30.1 million
7 Flag of Germany Germany 23.6 million
8 Flag of Mexico Mexico 21.4 million
9 Flag of Austria Austria 20.3 million
10 Flag of Russia Russia 20.2 million

Quite aptly said:
“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” - Benjamin Disraeli

In most situations, the pleasure comes from the journey, not the destination. Well, the journey continues ...

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