Traveling. What does it really mean?

Since my generation essentially gets all its information from shortened list-form articles, I thought it’d be important for me to try to stay at least relatively up to date when it came to such things (read: I click on nothing with pop music, newly released movies or anything of the sort because that can’t be used in conversation two years from now when I return to the States). I came across this link, which is to a list of countries to which one can travel cheaply or as they call it, on a college budget. Skimming through it, I realized one thing. According to this writer, traveling is about going to cool and scenic places so you can Instagram a photo and maybe even Tweet about such excursions. The piece (if you can call it that) focuses on spending money on food and booze (albeit somewhat necessary things for a night on the town), but doesn’t come close to touching what I consider to be at the heart of traveling. It’s not about five star hotels and private bathrooms, but rather about a deeper understanding of another part of the world. How do people there live? Travel to work? Buy groceries? Cook dinner? Get married? Don’t even get me started on how the list seems to take advantage of countries in economic distress. Reading that made me feel as if I was some sort of predator, preying on struggling economies and then making sure to party hard and rub my good fortune in the faces of the locals. If I wanted to get a cool new profile picture, I’d screenshot something from Nat Geo and Photoshop my face in. Or if I’m lucky, I’ll find one with someone’s back turned and say it’s me. I’m disappointed in the writer but also in the readers – if this is what traveling means now, I don’t want a part of it.

Maybe I’m being overdramatic. Maybe I’m just taking it the wrong way because I’ve now been in-country for over three months (barely, three months and two days!) and have learned that the best part of this country is not the lake (although it is beyond beautiful) or the textiles or the jade jewelry. It’s watching the little kids run down the street with their makeshift sticks and balls. It’s having a storeowner know you by name and remember your favorite kind of afternoon snack. It’s that moment when you just talk about life over pan con café with some grandpa in town. Maybe I’m just too PC now. Who knows.

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