photo credit: vd1966
Don’t get me wrong, I love numbers. As a student of Finance & Economics, I couldn’t agree more when my professors said, “The numbers never lie”. But I don’t always like the way they’re used to focus on certain things. Very often, we’re focused on the wrong numbers and end up with a bunch of data that does not really tell you anything of relevance or significance. When it comes to travel, I don’t like the thought process behind questions such as, “How many countries have you travelled to?” or the even worse “How many countries have you done?” I’m not denying that it’s great to have traveled to many countries. I mean which traveler in their right mind wouldn’t want to see as much of the world as quickly as possible, right?
Over time, for me the meaning of travel has undergone a fundamental change from the time I only used to dream of it, spending entire days pouring over the writings of other bloggers and living vicariously through their stories.
There have been times when I’ve been so caught up in this crazy obsession to travel across an entire country in less than a week, just to feel that I’ve seen it all but ended up not enjoying or appreciating any of it. As I’ve learnt from my experiences, the travels that I enjoy most are where I can stay long enough to really connect with the people and appreciate the culture. I much prefer a long drawn romance rather than a quick fling so that I can truly say that I’ve experienced a place. And sometimes I long for the streets I’ve already wandered on, the markets I’ve already explored and the food that I fell in love with the first time around.
I’ve realized now that I don’t like keeping count and sometimes I’d much rather go back to a country I’ve been to before rather than some place new. Of course, I still want to see as much of the world as possible but there’s no rush because I know I’ll never see it all anyway. I prefer travelling slowly and getting under the skin of a place so I can truly get to know it. That would be so hard to do if I had a time bound country check list. I don’t ‘do’ cities, countries and regions anymore because really, what does that even mean?!
One of the reasons why I’ve quit steady well-paying jobs in the past was that I got disillusioned with the obsession with certain number related goals that weren’t too relevant for me personally. The disconnect made me realize that even though I was successful in achieving these goals, working towards them was not satisfying in the least. If I were to measure the happiness and satisfaction that travel brings me in terms of the number of countries I have or will cover in a certain time frame, then I suppose I’d become equally disillusioned with this rat race likening to something that’s so much more.
How can you put a numerical value to the sense of humility you feel when you make it to the top after a long strenuous hike, the warm tingling in your heart when a stranger goes out of his way to help you, the smile that lights up the wrinkled face of the vendor in the market when you try to bargain in broken Vietnamese, the absolute sense of awe and wonder you feel when floating across a cave that’s lit up by millions of glowworms or the explosion of flavors in your mouth when you first try that exotic dish in Asia?
You can’t. So you just stop keeping count, embrace it and let it change you.