We don’t fit into the nomadic wanderer demographic of young explorers off to see the world. It’s taken us a whole lifetime of careers, marriage and kids to finally decide to shed all of our ‘stuff’ and set out to travel the world without a finite end.
We didn’t even realize how atypical we were, not fitting into the mold. Folks “our own age” often admit they wouldn’t think of doing what we are doing. For most of them, traveling is centered around vacation time where they can catch the tourist attractions that a certain destination has to offer. They look forward to returning and enjoying the comforts of their homes after a holiday. I admit that when I was younger, I could hardly imagine moving to a foreign land as many of my University friends did.
Most of our friends are younger, and many of them have told us how they would love to be able to do what we are doing. Some have been inspired by our travels and have begun their own journeys. And many more are working towards being able to do so.
Two or three weeks is often considered a long enough time to visit a place. We travel slowly, which is to say, we remain planted in a place for a few months at a time in order to better experience a destination. We try to integrate into the community, and experience their lifestyle. We rent an apartment, get a couple of used bicycles, join the gym and mix with the locals.
Staying in a Western hotel or being on a tour conducted in English does not interest us much. We would find it difficult to embrace the foreignness of another culture or tradition if we didn’t immerse in it. We did stay one night in a Best Western in Japan. There was little similarity to one in North America!
We shop at the local markets and try to duplicate some of the local recipes. This not only cuts down on costs but also makes it feel more like a home (especially when we can enjoy a bottle of micro-brewery sake with our meal!). We won’t be trying our hand at making ramen though, as we won’t ever be able to make that perfect stock. We’re still thinking how we would cook the enormous live octopus sold in the open markets.
Catching tourist attractions is not usually in our plan. We enjoy trying to integrate with the locals even if it becomes very entertaining for them, and subsequently for us. We like to get to know what makes them tick, and suppose that they’re wondering the same about us.
We don’t take the world or our place in it too seriously. We continuously explore who we are, and examine the world around us. We love to meet those who have enthusiasm for anything. Hearing about their stories and about their passions is always very interesting to us.
Even though neither of us has really walked the beaten path, this deep experiencing of other cultures and traditions changes us. I don’t feel that we are the same as we were a year ago. I figure that each new place changes us again and again.
We don’t look for the out-of-the-ordinary, but we often discover it in our travels. We meet many people who deeply touch us wherever we go. They begin as strangers and become those with whom we never want to lose touch. We’re often amazed and thrilled by people everywhere. Encounters like these, however brief, have a great impact on us. It’s one of the reasons we love to travel.