December 2019

How many times have you heard people say that the journey is as important as the destination?  I looked to see if there were any relevant quotes but it appears that every notable person in history has said the same thing! Of course most were what we call these days ‘inspirational quotes’ and none appeared to the actual business of traveling. Being a tourist does imply that we’ve chosen a destination  and the journey is just a means of getting there.

Not that long ago going on vacation involved the whole process of planning, traveling and being at a destination and all of that was enjoyable.  These days there seems to be many obstacles to enjoying the journey. We’re inundated with adverts and suggestions about where to go and how to get there. Every suggestion is accompanied by confusing prices and rules. As a young travel agent this is what I really wanted to do – to help people plan their vacations. In those days only us in the business had access to the information and booking systems, now everyone can be a travel agent (well, that’s a massive oversimplification, but you get my drift). There’s fun to be had here with the planning. 

Then there’s the actual journey, whether that be by car, train, plane or boat. I agree that all these choices could involve less that fun times. Traffic snarls, late running and crowded trains not to mention the hassles of airport and cruise terminal security, cramped aircraft seats and the inevitable delays.  Why do we do it?

To be honest there is still fun to be had in the journey, let me offer some alternative approaches.

Our niece is currently planning her wedding and that involves the honeymoon. The happy couple want to have a vacation of lifetime of course and they seem to be having fun in researching not only the destination but how to get there. I confess that suggestions from the Aunt and Uncle (us!) is also giving us fun. There are more ways to get somewhere that just the obvious route and many include visiting places you’ve never even thought of going to.

If you’re taking a road trip to your vacation you can of course just follow the instructions of your GPS system. That will probably be the shortest route, and may even be the fastest, but there are alternatives. As a kid our family rapid trips always involved my father giving me a map and asking that I plan out a route avoiding main roads and looking for ‘interesting’ places en route. I confess to sometimes getting it totally wrong, but in most cases these were voyages of discovery. We found interesting small towns, historic sites and gorgeous scenery away from major highways. I leaned to map read too which helps these days when our GPS offers some illogical routes.

If you’re flying it’s true that airport security can be painful but there are apps that help avoid peak times, and a bit of research in advance can prepare you for what you can and cannot take with you.  Part of my enjoyment of the journey is being more prepared than some of my fellow travelers and seeing how easy it can be. The actual flight can also be less than pleasant. I can’t help with the kid behind you who keeps on kicking your seat or the seat mate who steals the armrest, but again you can do your research to select airlines with bigger seats or times when there are fewer other travelers. If all else fails, the time on the plane is ideal for catching up on reading, listening to music or podcasts, watching movies or simply ‘people watching’.  There’s an upside to nearly everything if you look for it.

I think that’s the essence of being a tourist, to be always looking for the positives in traveling. We should all be seeking out new experiences. The late Anthony Bourdain – famous chef, author, tv presenter and story teller – always found something good in the people he met, the food he tasted and the places he visited. We should look for that too.

To experience beautiful sunsets and sunrises, to see amazing vistas from the tops of mountains and to watch the ocean means having to get off your chair and travel. On the way you’ll meet wonderful people, eat great food and enjoy yourself. The journey should be at least as rewarding as the destination.

I hope you have a very happy Christmas and a journey filled New Year.