Travel Motto #1: I don’t know…
“I don’t know” seems like an odd way to travel. But it works for me. I am not sure that I can truly explain this one, but I’ll give it the old college try (never quite understood that phrase… If I were connected to the internet right now I would google it, but maybe if I remember later…)
For me “I don’t know” means that I try to avoid having notions that keep me fixed to one place. Fewer plans (at least long term plans) means that when things happen I can go with them. I don’t mean that I wander out of my hostel each day with no purpose (although that has been known to happen), but rather that I find that the most interesting things tend to happen without schedules. I have wandered into many interesting places that I would never have seen if I did the “10:04 am see this museum until 11:47, the 6 minute walk to this place for a 26 minute lunch, etc.” style of travel. There is a definite place for tightly scheduled travel (I have traveled abroad with large groups of high school students, this style of no plans would not fly with groups like that) but even in those groups, some of the best moments are the unplanned (although scheduled into a block of time) wanders. One of the best meals I have EVER eaten was at a small restaurant that my parents and I wandered into in Siracusa, Sicily.
“I don’t know” also involves trying to avoid knowing what something is before you have experienced it. While postulation and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is an important part of the human experience. “I don’t know” helps to remind me that I need to have experience before I can begin to understand. For example: I have heard from a number of people,”Vietnam is pretty, but the people only care about money and will try to cheat you at every turn.” While this may be true for them, I did not have any issues with being ripped off in Vietnam and the people who I interacted with we’re all great. But if I had allowed their experiences, if I had “known” rather than starting with the idea of “I don’t know”, I can see how I may have only seen the “dark” side and have an unwarranted bad impression of Vietnam. Along these lines, I am reminded of a idea I read about in a book by a Palestinian doctor (I Shall Not Hate and his website: Daughters For Life) about his journeys with forgiveness. Although I don’t have a direct quote, he talks about remembering that each person is different. If you are ripped off by one Vietnamese seller in a tourist town who is trying to feed her family, that doesn’t mean that all Vietnamese people are just like her. (In a bunch of those situations, there should also be a bit of personal responsibility in allowing yourself to get ripped off. I can think of examples of people’s weaknesses being exploited, but I can also think of examples [and I am sure that I have fallen into this one before] of people getting ripped off because they allowed it to happen. Then getting mad about getting ripped off is their fault.)
I am not sure that I have really formed a complete thought in this. But these are two of my thoughts about the “I don’t know” style of travel. If I have more thoughts, I’ll do a second part to this post.
Also thank you to June who, after I had answered yet another question about my trip with “I don’t know”, asked if that was my motto for my trip. His question got me thinking about this (and the other upcoming posts).