Connecting: Places and People
The two of the types of questions I get asked most frequently about all the travelling I do, are either about coping and enjoying travel, or about site seeing. This is not only from friends and family, but also from people I meet in the countries I visit. This second line of enquiry has haunted me the most. Like did you see X while you were there? When in Y you must go to Z. I have often been embarrassed by my lack of interest and lack of such experiences.
I mean, surely if you love travel, you love seeing all the sights, yes? The slave trading forts and the massive lake Volta in Ghana. Lake Victoria (how has that name survived?) in Uganda. The 15000 year old settlement in Byblos or the Grottos of Lebanon. The old market and the desert trips of Dubai. Safaris in Zambia and Kenya. The jungles of Cameroon. The vastness of Nigeria. The zoo in Singapore. Or not!
The main feature of almost all the travelling I do is that I do it alone. I’ve seen some of the sites. Honestly and somewhat embarrassingly, they do very little for me. In some ways I could just as well visit them in HD on National Geographic, or the Discovery Channel.
For me being out and about in a foreign country needs to be about shared experiences. I’m enough of an extrovert that there is simply no thrill in doing things by myself. I want to do things with friends. One of my most basic needs is the need for connection.
This is so true of me, that I even see it play out at home. In Plettenberg Bay, Port Elizabeth, and now in Cape Town, I have done more site seeing when I have had company, than all the time I have been home alone. The beautiful beaches around Port Elizabeth (Peeyee!). The market in Hout Bay. The Grahamstown arts festival. The wine farms in Constantia, Stellenbosch, and Wellington. Walks around St Francis. Paddling up the Keurbooms river. Exploring Nieu-Bethesda. All of them wonderful shared experiences with people that are special to me.
It’s not because I’m lacking an adventurous spirit or courage. Both are well proven assets. I could not do what I do without them. Also, I do love exploring…
I’m often going for walks. Following my curiosity. Meeting strangers. Sharing a joke along the way. Making connections. Taking in the designs of houses and gardens. Being the camera operator for a family’s sunset photo. Getting to know the local shops and restaurants. Building relationships with the shop staff and waitrons.
It’s all about connection
So why then do I love travel? The common theme is obvious now. It’s all about the people. The cultures. Connections. Shared experiences. Adventures. Discoveries. Moments of laughter. Snippets of intimacy. Mutual growth. What we have in common. Where we are different. Our humanity.
So ask me about the sites I have seen, the places I have visited, and you might be disappointed. Ask about the people I have met, the connections I have made, and you would battle to shut me up. I now know the answer to the travel question. Connection. That is why I wander about.