I’vc been a bit contemplative lately. Must be the trains. And with that, on we go. ..
More times than I can count on this trip, I have had the “what is your trip” conversation with fellow travelers. “What is your trip” is the travel equivalent of “what do you do for a living” on the dinner party circuit. It is the standard opening question that you get greeted with when you meet anyone.
The question usually comes right after “were are you from” and right before “have you been robbed yet?”
Before my trip, at home, when people asked me my trip, they were amazed that I was going to go around the world. To take a year off to travel. It was almost unheard of. Frankly, I got a bit of a swelled head with all the reaction. I quite thought I was something unusual and unique out there in the world – a true adventurer. An explorer. A risk taker.
So, when I was asked the “what is your trip” question in the first few weeks, in Central America, I would subconsciously puff up my chest and go through the whole thing: “I’m going through Central America, down the west side of South America, back up the east side, over to Africa on a freighter, up the east side of Africa, the Middle East, then SE Asia, Australia and New Zealand. You are free to praise me now.”
Well, I didn’t say the last sentence, but the thought was certainly bouncing around my head.
The usual reply? “Cool. I’ve been traveling for about a year and a half now. You going to do India also?” Or “a friend of mine just did a similar trip. He/she had a great time. Would you like their email for some tips?”
On the road, I am just one of thousands, if not one of hundreds of thousands, out there on a long-term trip. And you are going to run into a ton of them on the backpacker circuit. Unless you are blind and doing the trip in a wheelchair, and paying for it by money you got from your good friend George Clooney (who is slated to do a documentary about the trip afterwords), you and your trip are not going to be any more unique than most everyone else you met.
So now I am much more circumspect about what I have done and what I am still planning to do. Swelled head (at least in this particular area) successfully punctured. Now I usually turn to just asking questions about their trip, after giving pretty vague answers about mine.
For the last few months in Africa and the Middle East, as I have run into more people essentially on vacation, I have realized the term traveler has a specific connotation out here. When I asked some girls in Jordan, “how long have you been traveling,” their quick answer was, “O no, we aren’t travelers. We are just going to be in Egypt, Jordan and Israel for about a month.”
Don’t know about you, but by my perspective, that sounds a lot like being a traveler to me. From my American perspective, a pretty exotic traveler at that.
That’s not the case out here. I think the rough cut off between ‘traveling’ and just ‘being on a trip’ or a ‘holiday’ is something in the area of three months or so on the road. There might also be a minimum number of countries visited that tilts you to traveler status also, but I’m less certain about that.
Regardless, to be certain, I have meet a few dozen people that are quickly at pains to make it clear that they don’t rise to the level of ‘traveler.’ They want to make it very clear that they haven’t made the time commitment to rise to that level of ‘traveler.’ I would have never put any particular thought into the specific meaning of this term, until I had a number of these exact conversations.
I didn’t know it was a bit of a badge of honor before, but I will take it with newfound humility and respect now.
Yes. I am a traveler.
But just to be clear, the way I personally travel. . . I prefer the term wanderer. Just sayin’.
and a related topic is speed and travel, which also put me in a contemplative mood.