Thursday, July 19, 2012

What's Your Travel Perspective?

I overheard a travel conversation last night while out to dinner. Trust me the participants were talking loud enough that you could not consider this as eavesdropping- it’s as if the table across from us wanted the entire restaurant to hear their conversation about their upcoming travels.

“Hello! Good to see you!”

“How are you? Where is your next big trip?”

I love conversations like that, and I was curious! Where was the next big trip? I shoot my husband a look. Did he hear them (how could he not?).  He did and we both leaned a little towards the table across the aisle so we could hear more.

“Istanbul,” cried one of the people at the table.

My husband and I looked at each other again. Fantastic! Istanbul! The very first place we traveled together. I could see my husband wanting to join in the conversation. He loves to talk Istanbul.

The table continued their conversation, “The travel agent said Istanbul is in Europe! Europe? My ass!” one of the diners scoffed.

Whoa, really?

You just booked a tour to Istanbul and you don’t know where it is located? And you don’t believe what your travel advisor is telling you? I am afraid this person has set themselves up for a terrible trip.

Half the fun of travel is the research. The more you know the better your trip will be. Don’t expect your travel destination to be exactly like your home town – just with an Eiffel Tower around the corner.

I don’t expect anyone to know everything about anything, but I am sure this gentleman had a smart phone. Would it kill him to go to Google and type Istanbul, Turkey?

When I do that very thing the first item that pops up is this:

Istanbul (Turkish: ─░stanbul) is the largest city in Turkey, forming the country's economic, cultural, and historical heart. With a population of 13.5 million, the city is at the center of the second-largest metropolitan area in Europe and among the world's largest cities by population within city limits.

Straddling the Bosphorus—one of the world's busiest waterways—in northwestern Turkey, between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, Istanbul is a transcontinental city, with one third of its population living in Asia and its commercial and historical center in Europe.

Hmm, then there is this little blurb:

Seven million foreign visitors arrived in Istanbul in 2010, when it was named a European Capital of Culture, making it the world's tenth-most popular tourist destination.

Thank you Wikipedia!

Istanbul has special meaning to me because Turkey was the very first foreign country I ever visited. I promise you in 1999 when I started planning my trip to Turkey and Greece I didn’t know anything about Turkey. Not a damn thing. But guess what I did – I looked it up (even before Wikipedia existed), and I learned as much as I could about the place I was about to spend a fortnight touring.

If you are going to boast and/or complain about your travels then you might want to get your facts straight! Travel (for me at least) requires a lot of work and a lot passion. You just can’t show up and say here’s my money impress me.

I once heard a lady at Heathrow airport yell at British Customs agent about VAT taxes. She was in the process of trying to get some money back and she wasn’t getting enough refunded in her opinion. It was no fault of the agent as he was just doing his job so she yelled, “Does all this money you are stealing from me go to your monument fund? God knows you have plenty in this stupid country!” Nice. Keep it classy.

If this delightful woman had done her research she would have know how the VAT refund process worked and she would have saved everyone some time and some embarrassment. There is a section in every guide book I own about London that explains the VAT process. There is even a little information packet with general information that shop keepers give you along with your receipt after making a purchase.

Travel isn’t about how much you spend, how you spend it or how much you think you got ripped off in taxes. It’s not about the abundance of monuments it what those monuments are about.

Travel is about experiences, knowledge and general common sense.

We as travelers are armed more now than ever with information. I say read, research then relax.

Knowledge is power. Attitude is everything. Whether in Turkey or having dinner in your hometown.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if I have a "Travel Perspective", I'm not quite sure what you mean by that.

    People who make me nervous when I hear about their travels are those who try to see "everything" in an unreasonably limited amount of time. You'll hear American or Japanese tourists talk about having visited Europe... and what they mean is they spent a couple of days each in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Barcelona and Amsterdam. Ummm... guys, you didn't visit Europe, just a few capitals! And didn't spend nearly enough time in any of those cities to enjoy it properly!!!
    I remember someone in Belgium telling me once they were going to visit Spain the following summer. I was interested and asked about their itinerary... which covered a HUGE part of the country! I was like "woah! You going for a month?" "No, 10 days." "You're crazy!!! Spain is much bigger than Belgium, you're going to be spending hours on the road just getting from one place to another!". They adjusted their expectations...

    I for one like to enjoy a place when I travel. Really get a feel for it. Enjoy whatever it is I have time to see, and definitely not rush to try and "see it all"! I know it's impossible to see it all anyways! Once you accept that fact, it's easier to let go and have no regrets about what you missed out on.