Recently, quite a few of my FB friends posted following quote by Saint Augustine: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
At first, that sounded like a good metaphor to me, but after doing some thinking I am not sure I agree. I mean, I am not sure, whether it still applies.
Of course, travelling broadens the horizon. Living in foreign countries even more so, as all expats will agree. However, to me it seems that HOW you travel is key.
You see, we live in a very touristy part of Mexico, and as you may know, tourist spotting is one of my favourite things to do. There seem to be 3 different kinds of tourists: A) the adventure tourist, B) the comfort tourist, and C) the thing in the middle. A is the kind of tourist who travels around with his backpack, who doesn’t mind to stay at cheap hostels, eat the local street food and who eagerly studies the country’s culture. C is the tourist who isn’t too adventurous when it comes to hotels and food, but explores the region and culture of the country. (I wished I could say that I fell under category A, but I am afraid I am much more of a C… Well, what can you expect from a taurus, right?) And then there is B, the comfort tourist, the one who stays at the resort day in, day out, enjoys beach life and can hardly be found anywhere else. Those are the ones who get home and upon being asked about their travels, they will tell you about the hotel, the food, and of course, the weather.
When bumping into a tourist of the B category, I always feel a little disappointed with the lack of interest in Mexican culture. I mean, everybody has a right to do what feels best while being on vacation, after all, that’s what holidays are all about. Nevertheless, it just almost pains me to think that, in this case, they miss out on the ruins, and cenotes, and whatever else is typical for this country / region. And I never fully understand why they picked this destination then, certainly, there must be cheaper options that are closer by?
So when I think of that quote, even though these people travel a good deal and can finally put a pin into Mexico on their little map, they didn’t really read that page, did they?
And then there are those people who for whatever reason cannot travel. Like waiter P. in our favourite restaurant. P. is an elderly gentleman who has never left Mexico, after all, salaries are ridiculously low, while cost of living in this part of Mexico is rather high, and international flights are expensive. When dinner service slows down, P. always comes to our table for a chat, and he always asks us many questions about Europe. And although he has never been to Germany, he knows a big deal about that country – things that sometimes I didn’t know, like the histories of famous churches and such. He gains all his knowledge from books, and honestly, that guy should be on a quiz show! So I’d say that he did read more than just one page – in any sense of the word.
Or then there is my almost 99-year old grandma who clearly cannot travel anymore. Instead she watches every single travel documentary on TV, and afterwards she joyfully tells me that yesterday, she travelled to Mexico! Or that last week, she went to the Grand Canyon!
Sure, seeing a film or reading a book can’t teach you the experience of being there, on the other hand, just going somewhere doesn’t mean you do get the experience either, does it? I think it is great that nowadays we all have easy access to whatever information we might be looking for, and that this way people who are not so fortunate to be able to travel, can at least recreate the experience – and hey, they are the ones who never get a sunburn! Of course, Saint Augustine who was born 354 could have never imagined a thing like the internet, he couldn’t even look at photographs, so he definitely had a point there back then. But nowadays?
What do you think? Is it necessary to actually travel some place to get a feeling what that particular country is about?