I just came back from traveling for a full week, both for school and for fun. I didn't think it was possible for me to be all traveled out...but here I am. Being away from a home and visiting so many foreign places everyday was both physically and mentally draining, and I wanted to clear out some cluttered travel thoughts consuming my mind these past few days.
I came to Europe knowing I'd see some beautiful places, and I certainly have. Living in Italy and going new places every week has given me endless content for photography and my blog, and I couldn't be happier. However at some point this past week I realized that the places I visit are more than just pretty backdrops for pretty portraits. We live in such self-centered universes of our own, that sometimes we forget to respect a town full of rich history and culture. Tourists vacation to these places to take pictures of popular sights, walk around recklessly, and leave after barely scratching the surface of what the town has to offer. As much as I despise that, I found myself falling into that trap.
It's not about going to different places all the time. It's about traveling somewhere and sinking your feet deep into the soil and exploring your environment beyond what Rick Steves tells you to see. This past week I found myself wanting to stop and take a break before going to my next destination. I need time to reflect and re-energize. I want to go to every new place with a fresh mind and a clean slate, ready to absorb every bit of the new environment. I wanted to stay as long as I can in one town, explore every inch of it by foot, learn the geography and terrain, touch the sea, feel the sand in my toes, and spend every sunrise and sunset outdoors. That's how I want to travel.
However going on trips with other people you'll always end up spending a lot of time getting caught up in meals, trips to the ATM, bathroom breaks, others' needs, and unforeseen things that come up. We focus so much on the little things we forget where we are. We forget to live in the moment, and instead treat an enjoyable trip like a task, just another thing we have to get through to check off the bucket list. Just so we can go home and boast "Yeah, I went to Capri and the Amalfi Coast. It was beautiful."
My life lately has also been looking like Pinterest and I want to puke. (Does this ever happen to anyone else?) I'm seeing so much superficial beauty I can't handle it. I'm jumping from place to place barely glancing the sights without actually stopping to understand much of it. I should've known. If I wasn't going to see anything beyond the surface of some place "pretty", I'd rather not go. I'd rather get away from it all and take in a generous dose of reality.
The other day I was laying in my hotel room looking up at the chandelier hanging from the ceiling, thinking I'm sitting in a hotel room under a freaking chandelier. I was in Ercolano, and it felt so uneasy living so lavishly while the rest of the city is so run down. I felt like a spoiled tourist getting special treatment. It felt wrong. What did I do to deserve this? A few days later I was lounging on a hilltop terrace by a private pool with a panoramic view of the sunset on the Amalfi Coast. I couldn't take any of it in. Why am I here? I haven't done anything lately worth treating myself to a vacation to. I wasn't proud, and I couldn't enjoy anything.
Sure, my trip this past week was fun. But I want my journeys to be more than just "fun." I want to learn and thoroughly experience them. I want to vacation to reward myself for doing something I'm truly proud of. (Which is absolutely nothing I've done recently.) I also want to stop at these places and make art. I want to take creative photos and sketch/paint to see a beautiful place from my own unique perspective. And all of this is really hard to do on a short weekend trip.
So yeah, these are just some of my thoughts. A lot of them came to me throughout the week as I sat through long train rides and got some quiet time to myself. I guess I think quite a lot. I'm also writing this instead of working on a 2000-word paper due tomorrow. I guess I should go start on that. Thanks for reading my rambling :)