anisha shah / Barbados / Destination / globetrotter / journalist / Niggling thoughts / travel writer / Uncategorized / world

TRAVEL – HOW DO YOU GET YOURS?

LIFE’S LISTS, TRAVEL FREEDOM

Checklists, bucket lists and to-do lists: don’t feel bad if this describes your life, it defines much of mine too. When booking travels, we tend to get so consumed with must-sees and must-dos, we forget to just go back to basics. I don’t believe humans are designed to view life in lists. We are designed to rely on the combination of all our senses. But these days, as we’ve evolved, we’re more dependant than ever on anything but our natural instincts. Those basics don’t really get a chance to be put into practice for fear of wasting time and/ or getting it wrong. There isn’t time and the repercussions of getting it wrong can be costly in many ways. Our lives have evolved from what was once survival in the wild to what is now hitting targets and getting things done; at work, at home, even at play – we’re constantly making lists in our heads. Our brains have become a rotating cog of goal-achievement.

Two friends gaze at the sunset in Barbados

How often do you take yourself to a new place, let’s say to a one-off market, and just roam; guided entirely by your senses, gravitating to whatever takes your fancy in that very moment with no pre-meditated ideas of what you expect to see or buy? More often than not, we’ll head to the same supermarket or shop with a regular list of necessities. That’s because time is short. And time is short because we’re constantly trying to get through one list to move onto the next. That is life and it is normal.

RELY ON NATURAL INSTINCT FOR A CHANGE

How about trying a new approach in that moment when you’re craving a change? Scrap the monotony of normality for a while. Reach out for an opportunity to live for the moment, open to experience and free of preconception. Of course, this is much easier said than done. But, isn’t this the essence of travel or ‘getting away’? Isn’t that supposed be our time, free of alarm clocks, lists and duties? Of course it is.

Putting the world to rights, Bajans relax on the streets in Speightstown, Barbados

So why then, the second we’ve decided where to go, do we start researching and compiling a list of what we must see and do in said destination? I put this question to a Bajan Singaporean lady sat next to me on the return flight from Barbados two days ago. She responded that it’s very important to her to make and get through a list of what to see or do in a new city or country. But beyond that, we came to a series of honest frank conclusions.

When we’re making the must-see list for travels we are predominantly interested in that sight as our guide to local history, culture, society and make-up of that place. That is important. But beyond that, we asked ourselves even more frankly, do we really care? And sometimes, ‘No’ is the answer; we don’t care. After a few museums, galleries and historical sights, I don’t always genuinely passionately desperately care in the way I feel should be necessary to spend such precious limited travel time. Sometimes, I feel a responsibility to visit that particular tourist sight, for fear of missing a guidebook must-see, or not being cultured enough, or our of guilt of not supporting the work of local communities. On occasion we went as far as agreeing that we’ve visited a museum or historical sight at some point purely out of the fear of returning to work or a friend’s dinner party during which one is asked, ‘Did you visit x, what did you make of y?’ That dreaded moment of not appearing informed or cultured when you reply that you actually didn’t bother visiting that particular place is akin to being slapped by the ‘loser traveller’ hand. In that moment, the fear of being brandished stupid, uninterested or even undutiful is so powerful, it often drives straight through the doors of No 23 on the guidebook must-do list. But it doesn’t have to be so.

STRAY FROM THE NORM, QUITE LITERALLY

A moment of tranquillity, Fishing off the rugged Barbados North Coast

I think we should have more confidence to say, ‘No.’ ‘No, I didn’t visit that particular sight, No I’d already learnt about it from x and didn’t feel the need to visit y as well. Instead, I…’

You could continue that small yet potent ‘No’ using my explanation:

After a few tourist sights, it’s time to stop seeing things and instead try to see life. Just half an hour of solitude, somewhere that suits you; be it a local temple, coffee shop, busy street or empty rooftop, can be enough time. Just observe and immerse yourself completely in the moment. Don’t try to think anything at all. Just be; there and in the moment, and I’ll be damned if you don’t come away having noticed or learned or gained something unique about the place you’re visiting, that could be your ‘moment’ of that trip. You may notice something that teaches you a million times more than any plaque or scripture.

A holidaymaker finds the perfect spot to look out to sea in Barbados

Moments that open your mind, give you a tiny insight into life in that country or perhaps even spark questions in your mind can provide the most profound experiences of meaning and understanding to a place that only You could have experienced at that very moment in time. Think of it as a memory carved out just for you in that moment, that can remain for life. I read somewhere, ‘Most often, it is a moment of pure surprise that stays special forever.’ That saying sticks in my mind because it’s so true. The memories I truly cherish of my travels are the insignificant, cost-free and unexpected moments in which I learn something that amazes me, by just being present in that moment, rather than focussing on the to-do list in my head. Allow yourself to enjoy a moment when it’s pleasurable, without feeling guilty or time-conscious, and the moment can last an eternity (or at least a few more minutes.) If you’re lucky enough to have more time, you could learn about an entire culture from simply whisking yourself off somewhere local and observing, noticing and interacting with locals. Most recently, in Barbados, that happened on several occasions, but most memorably on a secluded beach when I felt drawn to a completely random local walking past. I asked him to take a photograph which sparked an amazing conversation, during which I discovered an invaluable hidden gem on the island, straight from a local Bajan. Next day, I set about finding the spot and it was true paradise. I spent an afternoon there, in solitude, feeling blessed.

Flowers and mangroves at Long Pond, Barbados’ best hidden gem, as reccomended by a local

‘Lond Pond’ idyllic hidden gem on Barbados rugged East Coast with a large pond on edge of the beachfront

LEARN THROUGH ALL YOUR SENSES

So next time you start making that travel list of what to see and do abroad, be sure to set aside a little time for You. A time when you can learn through your natural instincts, talk to people using your gut instinct and throw yourself out of the norm into what may, at first, feel like unfamiliar or uncomfortable ground, but which I guarantee will leave you feeling liberated and super-confident in yourself.

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5 thoughts on “TRAVEL – HOW DO YOU GET YOURS?

  1. I love your emphasis on local culture when traveling. I totally agree. Museums are great to see, but the essence of any new place is to walk on the streets with the locals. If the place I am visiting has a “tourist center”, I usually only go there once, then I try to stay away from it!! David

    • Thank you David! I do believe people are becoming increasingly aware of travel and how to get the most out of a destination. But to me, it’s vital! I do the same, centre once then steer clear!

  2. A great post and solid reminder that sometimes we can do all the planning in the world to try and create those “perfect experiences,” to only learn that the perfect experiences arrive in their own time…and often when we least expect it.

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