“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake.”Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes
“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.”Hilaire Belloc
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”Freya Stark, Baghdad Sketches
There is probably no greater feeling of freedom than packing a small bag and going out to explore some far away region by yourself. With no worries, no responsibilities, no time tables and schedules, and absolutely no goals in mind except to relax and have some fun.
Traveling is a relatively new endeavour for me. Life and its circumstances had me start traveling (abroad, that is) at age 26, though the basic skills of finding my way around, hiking and enjoying nature have been developing within me since my childhood days. Thankfully, during those days traveling and what they call "knowing the country" were still important for Israeli schools, and scout movements were still popular. That is not the case today.
In my eyes, traveling is an art. I have grown to develop a strong ideology on the matter, influenced by the words, works and lives of great travelers like Doug Dyment, Christopher McCandless, Jon Krakauer, and my own personal experience. While traveling with friends is or can be wonderful, when traveling for an extended period of time, I prefer to travel alone. You can live your entire life and hardly even know yourself, until you land yourself in some distant spot and see what happens.
“Not all those who wander are lost.”J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“Not till we are lost... do we begin to find ourselves.”Henry David Thoreau, Walden
“To get away from one's working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one's self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change.”Charles Horton Cooley, Human Nature and the Social Order
As I see it, getting lost is the best way to discover new places. I've known people to live their entire lives at the same house and hardly even know their neighborhoods. Either at home (that is, in Israel) or abroad, when walking around (or even driving around) I try to walk randomly. Even when walking to the same destination on a daily basis, I will randomly take a new route and see where I find myself. I've found the most interesting places I know and best ways to take by accident.
I do admit that one of my main reasons for traveling is to get away. Get away from the drudgery of routine and "normal" life, from the expectations of others of me, from the obstacles that stand between me and my dreams. Is it any wonder that traveling is so addictive that some people devote their entire lives to it?
How I Travel
The practical details behind my travels are based on my own personal preferences, and are heavily influenced by Doug Dyment's website about light traveling. To sum it up:
- I do not check luggage. I carry only one bag that is small enough to be considered a carry-on by airlines. The bag will always be with me and will never be handled by airline workers or anything like that. For the past four and a half years this bag has been the MEI Voyageur. This is the bag I take with me no matter how long my trip is, be it three days or one month.
- I have a packing list that has all the possible items (including wardrobe, tools, toiletries, etc.) I can/should take with me when traveling, including quantities. Again, these quantities will usually not change with trip duration. Three days or three months, the packing list is the same. Whenever I am about to travel, I will take this list, remove items that are not relevant (such as winter clothing if traveling in summer), and pack my bag, which takes no more than a few minutes.
- I never pack anything that I can buy cheap when I arrive at my destination. For that reason, I almost never take any toiletries with me.
- I do laundry while traveling. Frequently. Usually at coin-operated laundromats, and if not available then by hand in the sink. That allows me to take a minimal amount of clothing. On my 2013 trip to the US, my bag had only two pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, two short sleeve shirts, one long sleeve shirt and one pair of travel pants, along with what I was wearing on myself when departing. Together with the tools, paperwork, books and tablet that I carried with me, and the bag itself, I was carrying only 6 kg on my back.
- I do not carry a camera, I only take pictures with my smartphone. The pictures won't be as good, but I prefer not to take a camera for the simple reason that I do not travel for picture taking and I don't want to waste luggage weight/volume on a camera. I think people are so focused on picture taking while traveling that they forget to actually look, feel and enjoy the places they're in. Have you ever taken a look at pictures you had photographed while on vacation and couldn't even remember how it felt to be there? I blame that incessant picture taking.
Recommended Travel Websites
- Doug Dyment's excellent travel website probably made me the traveler I am today. On the surface, this is a practical guide on how to travel with just one (relatively) small bag, but it is much more comprehensive than that, and I learned a lot from this amazing work.
- The Man In Seat 61
- I hate flying. It is easily one of the worst modes of transportation for a human being. Mark Smith's content-loaded website goes to prove that one can travel around the world with a minimal (if any) dependency on flights, using large-distance trains and ferries instead. This is an extremely comprehensive work.
- My favorite website for searching flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. They also have a great app for smartphones. In 2012 a flight I booked from Chicago to Las Vegas was cancelled right at the gate. By the time the airline representative at the check-in counter managed to grant me a refund, I was able to book a new flight with a different airline using the Kayak app in just a few minutes. I do, however, encourage comparing with other websites (as does Kayak, it'll actually automatically open competing websites for you with the same searches so you can easily compare).
- How to See the World: Art of Travel
- This wonderful work by John Gregory is meant to be a pratical guide on budget traveling, but it is even more so inspiring.