We’ve been allowed quite a bit of contrast regarding the way we travel given its rather novel medium. While most of the people we see are either, backpacking, hitch-hiking or flying around, we are cycling.
While we were in big tourist destinations like Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, I found myself asking other travellers, “where have you travelled?”
Singapore, Penang, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, Luang Prabang.
Okay so we’ve been to more or less the same places. But I was irked when I realised how similar our travel might have sounded when they were probably aeons apart. I realised that WHERE you have travelled means nothing. I am more interested in HOW you have travelled.
Mizuki is taking a bus from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang. She complains that the seats on the minibus will be hard and she won’t get to sleep. I tell her that the views she will get are stunning and she won’t feel like sleeping anyway. She says the bus will be too fast for her to enjoy the scenery. I agree.
Danielle shows me pictures of her bungalow overlooking the mekong in Luang Prabang. She says she paid 30USD per night for it. I comment that that is expensive. Her defence is that it is her holiday and she doesn’t mind paying for a luxurious vacation that she can afford.
How we travel varies greatly. Every person travels in a way that is unique to her, motivated by personal reasons.
For Sak, travelling might be a form of exercise, to strengthen his back after and old injury from an accident. It might also be to take many pictures (what he calls “art art art”) for memories to share with his daughter at home.
For Danielle, her holiday might simply be a short getaway as reprieve from Hong Kong city to enjoy creature comforts at low South-East Asian prices.
For Kotaro and Mizuki, their year long solo travels might be a once in a lifetime chance to see the world before settling into marriage or a long an arduous career in Japan.
Each person’s experience in a place and eventual notions of it become unique to how they travel. But for some, how they travel seems to be limited to the direction of tour companies, tripadvisor and lonely planet.
A Korean traveller asked me at a restaurant in Vang Vieng, “So, you’ve seen real Laos people?” I told her that the people around her are real Laotians as well, but I see what she means – Laos is not just Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Vang Vieng. I am proud that we are travelling in a manner that takes us beyond the path well trodden and in a manner that makes people ask “how?”