Travel with the right intentions
I respect the efforts of the Taiwan tourism officers (TVA) and the people involved in the country’s travel trade for tirelessly working on improving the tourism industry.
Today, Taiwan is well recognised as a top travel destination around the world, especially for its leisure farming programme and unique homestay experiences. Hence, you will never forget the taste of Taiwan pearl milk tea and crispy fried chicken!
Meanwhile, in Japan, immediately after the 311 earthquakes and tsunami incidents, the responsibility of reviving its tourism industry fell on every citizen. The Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) and travel trade folks – with the support of local governments – have managed to boost the industry in under 10 years. The number of inbound tourists actually increased from six million to 30 million in six years.
From immigration officers to sanitation workers, every Japanese should be commended for all their efforts in reviving their country’s tourism industry. This has a lot to do with their attitude and work ethics, something that we could all learn and practise too.
When it comes to the Greater China circle, it seems like only the Taiwanese have adopted this kind of attitude. They link up life with travelling, infusing life into travel.
Thus, the Taiwanese interpretation of life is that it is a journey. Therefore, they are not too concerned about the destination, but focus on the experience. They appreciate the views, cultures, and experiences instead.
We should also do the same: Appreciate the joys of travelling by immersing in the culture and engaging with the people around you, whether it is your travel companions or hosts. The Taiwanese really love their weekend rest days, savouring the countryside with their families, enjoying their free time. That’s the true meaning of travel from their point of view.
Thankfully, in Malaysia, we are also seeing more travellers who are starting to adopt this kind of mindset.
If we think this way, then we will not be easily affected by mishaps or unavoidable incidents during our journey. There is a case where a world renowned airline was forced to delay one of its flights, causing some passengers to miss their connecting flights. However, passengers were given a one-night stay at a five-star hotel at the Dubai Airport.
If this were to happen to you, would you curse your tour leader or the airline, or blame the travel agency for choosing that airline? Would you demand full compensation? Or would you just enjoy your lovely stay in Dubai with an open heart and mind, and just go with the flow?
Lost but rewarding
Ask yourself this: if you lose your way during a journey, what kind of mentality would you have? There have been quite a number of situations during our Europe tours where drivers have taken the wrong road or turns. If this happened to you, how would you react?
Japanese economics expert Omae Genyichi, who has six years of experience as a tour leader, has this to say: “Do not lock your mind on the destination, a rewarding surprise often comes from getting lost!”. To me, that is very true. This is the “aesthetics of travel” which involves our five senses – taste, see, smell, hear and feel. Getting lost allows you to see the other side of the planned journey, see that life in the alleys can be joyful and probably inspire you to truly define what you want to pursue in life.
That is why travel is not a map filled with planned itineraries. Travel is an enhancement of knowledge. Through travels we seek to explore knowledge and we cast aside our prejudices to go in search of the pleasures of the mind and soul.
The meaning of travel changes too, as each journey is also a chance for a new beginning. Travel gives us an opportunity to rediscover ourselves. By travelling, we can re-examine ourselves. Not only do we see the world, we can even see where we stand.
A specific theme
In reality, travelling with a packed itinerary, in which we only get to browse places and not fully immerse ourselves in the beauty of the place, is tiring. A slow-paced and “themed travel” is perhaps the best way to go these days as we get to truly appreciate things more.
However, for most people, travelling is expensive so they tend to choose an itinerary that packs in as many landmarks and interesting activities that they can do in a short period of time.
For those who can afford it though, do try to take your time. Visiting the penguins of the Antarctic, the polar bears of the Artic, the mummies of the Egyptian Pharaohs, the Machu Picchu in Peru and the Mayan ruins of Mexico – these will all give you some kind of spiritual experiences that you will remember for the rest of your life.
The “aesthetics of travel” is not merely about visual satisfaction, it is actually more about how you feel. From my years of experience, I recommend that every traveller try a slow-paced and in-depth travel schedule with “low-key luxury”. In the midst of calmness and leisure, we create a way of travel that is most elegant, comfortable and enjoyable.
Leesan, the founder of Apple Vacations, has travelled to 119 countries, six continents and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored two books.