Just like almost every other millennial I know (apart from my little sister), I habitually cite travelling as one of my hobbies. Basically, you can see it as my attempt to convince you that I am an interesting, fun-loving individual, who is keen to learn new things, and opens her heart to the wonders of the world.
Not sure if that convinced you, but I was pretty convinced myself, until my most recent travelling experience.
My tour was mainly focused on Xi’an, a northern city that has been China’s capital for the longest time in history. Read up on the city and its attractions if you are keen. It’s an amazing city, but I am no tour guide.
After spending about a week in Xi’an, my family and I spent one and a half days in Wuzhen, a scenic historical water town that conveniently sits within a triangle formed by Hangzhou, Suzhou and Shanghai, each very touristy on its own.
Don’t get me wrong; I had a great time. Touring China in winter had its perks as we were able to avoid the massive crowds that would be present in any other season.
For instance, it was an awesome experience treading the snowy caps of Mount Hua, where we walked stretch after stretch with not a soul in sight.
Riding a bike on the ancient city wall of Xi’an was a thrill, and with so few cyclists around, I could speed to my heart’s content without having to worry about getting into a road accident. Even Wuzhen was a lot quieter than I had expected it to be, and despite it being a popular tourist site, we did not have to queue to get seated at any restaurant.
There was also a great satisfaction in the photo-taking, as the backgrounds of our pictures are largely clean and spared from noisy, messy specks, also known as other tourists.
So for that two weeks, we lived in some sort of winter dreamland. We were extremely fortunate that the weather conditions happened to be favourable when we arrived and our guide (in Xi’an) was helpful and knowledgeable. I could not imagine how miserable the trip would have been if that hadn’t been the case.
But now I can’t help but to ask myself: what kind of traveller am I, if I could only appreciate the trip when the conditions were perfect or ideal?
What kind of traveller am I, to loathe the presence of other travellers and wish that I am the only one entitled to the breathtaking scenery (and being inside it)?
What kind of traveller am I, if I am more concerned with proving that I have travelled through frenziedly acquiring pictures and souvenirs, rather than patiently connecting and learning from the locals in a foreign land?
Two words: spoilt and shallow.
Till today, I hardly see vacations as relaxing getaways. Ironically, I see travelling as an act of splurging to get out of one’s comfort zone.
There were instances where I felt very lonely, on a long plane ride, and despite moving faster than any other time physically, I felt like I was trapped in a void where nothing was going on, and there was nothing I could turn my attention to.
It also seems like a recurring curse that I would start to to feel unwell at some point of the trip, perhaps due to my inability to adjust to a different environment and its state of sanitation. These ailments (usually in the form of stomachache and nausea) unavoidably injected bouts of anxiety into the trip as I fretted over messing up the preplanned itinerary.
I wasn’t quite able to relax on my trips either. I did not want to miss out on things, nor risk losing my possessions. It was only after I am seated comfortably in my room, back in the “greenhouse” that I come from, that I felt reinvigorated from my trip. It’s the feeling where one finally relaxes after weeks of tension.
Thus, I cannot say that I truly love travelling. Perhaps I just like its aftereffects. At the end of the day, I just hope to become someone who is stronger and simply more well-travelled than before.