I’m the type of person who likes to go to the place nobody else thinks of. I’ve been to Europe, the US and all the typical places you consider when you first decide to travel. But those places don’t do it for me anymore.
Don’t get me wrong; these are all wonderful places and well worth visiting. Some of my favourite travel memories involve drinking Agua d’Valencia in Spain, travelling on the famous Route 66 in America and dancing the night away in the hallowed clubs of Berlin. But if you want to experience a truly different culture and see how people live different to yourself then you must branch out.
I get asked all the time by friends and family ‘Why there?’ I heard this question when I went to China. It was asked again when I went to Morocco. For some, venturing outside the classic Bali-like beach and party paradises or our typical Western European getaways is met with confusion and a questioning of what would motivate someone to go elsewhere. Why spend your hard earned money and leave trekking kilometres through the desert with people you can’t communicate with when you could instead sit on a tropical island and relax? And for a long time I had that mindset too. I thought there were certain places that I shouldn’t go to for the smallest of reasons.
Maybe a country had only recently ceased a civil war and was still rebuilding. Maybe certain areas were known for crime and had been designated ‘no-go’ zones. Or maybe it could be the simplest of reasons like not knowing the language. I look back at times when I thought like this and can’t believe how ridiculous that way of thinking is!
Now, when thinking of where I want to go next, I think in the complete opposite way.
Why not go to that recently war-like nation that is now peaceful? There will be fewer tourists and the locals will be eager to show you what they are truly like. Why not go to areas others wouldn’t? This is where communities are often the strongest and can give you the best local experience possible. Without changing this mindset I wouldn’t have walked with Berber nomads in the Moroccan mountains or been welcomed into the homes of strangers.
I don’t want you to take this to mean we should take unnecessary risks; we should all do our research before going somewhere new and take precautions if need be. But I also don’t want you to turn away from an incredible experience just because it doesn’t seem like the obvious choice. I still kick myself with regret when I think of times I’ve done just that and missed out on experiences because of it.
When asked in the 1920s why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory responded: ‘Because it’s there.’ It was an easy and simple response, of course, but within it, Mallory perfectly captured the adventurous spirit and the impulse to accept challenges and take them on. We should all have this spirit when we consider our destination because, in reality, there is nothing stopping you. The world is there, so go.