What is “Real Travel” ?

by Marc on November 1, 2009


I know it’s been a long time since we’ve posted anything – we’ve been busy adapting to life back in the States, and sorting through the lessons we’ve learned while trying to figure out how to turn this simple journal of our travels into a valuable resource for other families and aspiring travelers.

For me, one of the biggest challenges is avoiding the rather self-righteous tone some of the famous travel bloggers seem to take. You know, it’s not that they’re conceited or anything – they’re just aware that because they’ve been all around the world, they’re a little bit better than everyone else.

I’m sure most of them don’t really feel that way – and for the most part, these people really are awesome. I just wish they weren’t so in-your-face about it. Gosh, I hope I never come across that way, but I probably do sometimes. Sorry.

These accomplished travelers might lead you to believe there’s a “right” and a “wrong” way to travel and experience other cultures. They might give you the idea that if your travel plans include air conditioning, hot showers, tour guides or recognizable food, then you’re not a “real traveler”. Don’t believe them.

NOTE to any famous travel bloggers who read this article:

I’m not talking about you. Really, I’m talking about someone else. You’re awesome. And totally down-to-earth. I mean it.

So what is “real travel” anyway? What is fake travel? I have to admit that I’ve met a number of people who travel in such an isolated way that they never interact at all with other cultures and probably don’t learn anything in the process. Maybe that’s not “real travel”. But how far beyond that do you have to go?

For me, real travel is anything that not only moves you to another physical location, but to another mental one as well. While I agree that the further you push outside your comfort zone the more you can grow, just getting out there (both physically and mentally) is more important than how you do it.

I think just about any kind of travel can help a person grow – even the touristy kind – if you pay attention, keep an open mind, think about what you’re seeing and doing, and interact with the locals at least enough to learn something about them.

But that’s just my opinion. What does “real travel” mean for you?


November 1, 2009 Krystal

I’ve never thought much about “real travel”…does that mean there is a “fake travel”? lol Really…the best way for us to travel is to do it in the way that works best..for US. I’d hope others are allowed to do that same. Anything that stretches us as people is good-it might be the trip across the street or across the country or across the world. The route, the location and the way of getting there is pretty irrelevant as far as I can tell. What happens inside of me (us) is the most important thing to me.

November 1, 2009 Craig

I’m interested in the question you ask, but I’m more interested in where you took the picture at the top of the post. It’s spectacular!
I see from your Flickr it’s from Peru, but where?

I hope re-entry is treating you well. Give us a shout if you are ever in the DC area.

November 1, 2009 Marc

@Krystal – well said!

@Craig – the picture was taken in the Sacred Valley (near Moray) somewhere between Cusco and Ollantaytambo. That’s what it looks like in the rainy season. Different from when you guys were there, I guess.

November 3, 2009 Anil

I don’t think there’s a “real” way to travel. The word “travel” itself is so broad and so varied. Like you said though, it’s so much more than just physically going somewhere else.

November 4, 2009 Gray

I couldn’t agree more, Marc! There is definitely a travel snobbery that exists out there among some that there is only one “right” way to travel. I applaud anyone who gets out there and goes to other places. I don’t care how they do it.

November 4, 2009 Roger

Great question! As somebody who loves to travel and works in the travel industry, it’s a topic close to me. I agree that there isn’t a “right” way to travel, it just depends on the experience the traveler is looking for. The important part is heading into any journey with an open mind, willing to learn from the people you encounter and not just look at the things you see. The world’s an amazing place!

November 7, 2009 Marta

I don’t think there is a right or wrong to way to a “real travel” but as you say you need to keep your eyes and mind open if you want to see “behind it”. What’s the point of going to fareast Asia or even to your next-door city and stay inside the 4 walls of your resort? You could be then just anywhere that it would not really matter.

November 8, 2009 Jeremy and Eva Rees

My wife and I are currently a little past halfway through our trip and feel the time slipping away. I hope you guys are adjusting to being back home, I have started to dream I am home and somehow skipped the last 5 months our our trip – shudder.

I hope this doesn’t ruffle any feathers but I have a problem with the way “traveler” seems to be better than a “tourist.” The “real traveler”, like you mentioned, claims to really experience the world by not having air-conditioning or hot showers but I can’t help but notice most of these “travelers” have Lonely Planet who seems to market this “great experience,” like some sales gimmick. The “traveler” and Lonely Planet want to believe they are pioneering in discovery of the world, worse yet, LP dictates the politics of response, showing you how to feel about being a “real traveler.” (Sorry for the tirade, LP books seem to weigh a lot in our packs and can be kind of condescending)

When we are outside our culture and country, we are “tourists,” cast adrift in otherness. Like you, we applaud anyone who has a passport and uses it. My wife and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feeling or tell anyone else how they should travel. Just go out and travel! Follow the things that strike your fancy and enjoy the growth you find, it can’t go wrong. Maybe weird and un-intentional, but new all the same.

PS, a very timely post :) Eva just got a few good laughs out of all the bindi-wearing uncombed Americans who wouldn’t make eye contact with other tourists. I am glad they had their experience, just don’t act like you’ve transcended so high above us lowly sightseers

May 28, 2010 Steve

I don’t think there is a right or wrong to way to a “real travel” but as you say you need to keep your eyes and mind open if you want to see “behind it”. What’s the point of going to fareast Asia or even to your next-door city and stay inside the 4 walls of your resort? You could be then just anywhere that it would not really matter.

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