Today I reached a milestone in blogging about my travel experience. At the beginning of this year I set out to write blog entries about the experience from a trip that actually happened about a year before. I decided to write about the trip in chronological order and covering experience I remembered about the trip. There was no other pre-planning on topics to write. 244 blog entries later, I finally reached the end of writing about this trip. It is quite significant because not only it’s the first time I wrote about a trip in its entirety, but also the trip itself was the first multi-country trip I had ever done in my life. I’m looking forward to writing more about other trips I had done (domestically or internationally), but to wrap up this series, here are some thoughts about the trip and about the blog writing experience.
Some thoughts about the trip:
- Culture sensitivity: It is very important when traveling to be prepared and be sensitive about the local culture you’re about to immerse yourself into. Doing a little bit of research and learning prior the trip would help you understand what people value in the places you visit, the similarities and differences between your culture and theirs, and avoid committing cultural faux pas.
- People to meet: One important part of a trip that enrich the experience is the people who you meet during the trip. This could be fellow travelers, the hosts or guides, people who provide services to you, or just random local people. Sometimes the interaction you have with them makes your experience unique and memorable.
- Share experience: One great way to learn about the local culture is to share your personal experience or something from your own culture with the locals whom you meet. What you consider as ‘normal’ day-to-day experience at home might be a fascinating, novel thing to learn for the locals. Conversely, the ‘normal’ things for the local might be something new and fascinating for you to learn.
- Overcome language barrier: I’m not naturally an outgoing person, and if you take out one tool I’m comfortable with (e.g. ability to communicate in a language I’m fluent in), then it becomes even more challenging to interact with others. But I need to constantly remind myself about the previous points above regarding people. There is more to the trip than just taking in the scenery or experiencing things yourself. And sometimes all it takes is the willingness to risk of making a fool out of yourself by attempting to say few words in the local language or using hand gestures, and keeping things lighthearted with a smile to break the ice and connect with the locals.
- Don’t sweat small stuff: There will be things that don’t go according to plan — flight delays, bad weather, place closings, etc. Don’t let these ruin your trip, instead look at the unexpected as an opportunity to experience something different. Make the best use of your time to ‘make lemonade from lemons.’
Some thoughts about the travel blogging experience:
- Ultimate souvenir: Dave Fox in his book Globejotting calls travel journal as the ‘ultimate souvenir.’ in a way, I think he is right as this is a great way to share your experience with others, and it’s a wonderful way to relive and cherish the experience.
- Photos and notes to remember: If you want to write a travel journal, you need to keep things that help you remember the details about the trip. Photos are good visual reminders of what you experienced, but there are also things that are difficult to capture in a picture like emotions, smell, taste, sound, or even details like names. For those, it’s helpful to keep notes. The notes don’t have to be long or perfectly written; they just have to be enough to remind you about the experience.
- Appreciate every moment: When you start reliving the travel experience, it’s amazing to think of a lot of little details that you would otherwise forget or overlook if you don’t come back and rethink about it. These add up to make your trip unique and memorable in comparison to others’ trip to the same places.
- Learning more from writing: When I thought of a topic about my trip that I wanted to write about, I often did additional research about related facts to make sure what I’m writing is accurate. During that process, I often times learn about some facts or trivia that I didn’t know before. This made the process of writing even more interesting to me as I love to learn about things.
- Taking time to write: Some people would write their travel blogs during the trip itself or only write random things the think or feel about the trip. I guess it’s a matter of personal preference or style, but to me, it is more worthwhile to take my time and think about what I’m about to write, as it would make it richer both to the readers of the blog as well as to me as the writer.
So that’s it about my Southeast Asian trip in 2010-2011. The photo below is a page from my passport with stamps from the countries I visited during this trip. Prior to this, my passport was pretty much clean and empty.