Friday, July 27, 2012

My shifting politics of travel

When I was younger, travel was a race to pack in as many sights and attractions into my itinerary as possible. I would spend 3-5 days in each new city, making a tour of all the Lonely Planet recommended galleries and museums, restaurants and sites of interest. I had a terrific time hopping around, savouring each moment and I was always on a high as a result. It's only recently that I've discovered what Rolf Potts calls 'slow travel'... Slow travel is about getting to know a place in more depth by spending more time in one location, and getting to know some of its residents. Since I started doing this it has quickly become the preferable way to travel. What makes slow travel so lucrative is that it exposes the complexities of each locale, with their chiaroscuro of exciting and mundane, improbably welcoming and surprisingly off-putting, fabulous and dreary. The longer you stay, the more nuances you catch, the more layers you find, and the more that place leaves its mark on your psyche.

As I go back to Southeast Asia, a region I have been enchanted by, disappointed in, found overabundant and morbidly lacking in turns, I look forward to discovering something new. I don't know what it is yet, and that's part of the joy. The freedom to shape my own questions, discover myself in between the tones (of the languages), communicate with my eyes and my toes... such is the power of travel as a state of mind.  

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