During her 2.5 weeks of backpacking around Laos and Myanmar, Vanessa Tai encountered many different travellers, and she’s now convinced about the type of traveller — and by extension, person — that she always wants to be.
Ever gone on a holiday with people who are just so darned hard to impress? You know the kind … when you’re marvelling at a certain sight or scenery, they will simply nod and say, “Yeah, but have you seen (insert name of some other sight or scenery)?” Or, when you’re raving about a local dish, they will say, “This is not that great actually. I prefer (insert name of some other country’s cuisine).”
Now I’m not saying we pretend to like something when we don’t. However, in this age of instant gratification and round-the-clock entertainment, it seems as if we’re getting harder and harder to impress. Is it just me or does anyone else find it hard to sit through a movie without mentally critiquing everything from the plot to the choice of cast? Or perhaps you visit a place of interest only to compare it to other bigger/grander/more hipster places? It seems as if everything is now viewed through the lens of social media – is this place Instagram-worthy? Is it exciting enough for me to check in to on Facebook? Is it obscure enough? And so on.
On my most recent trip, I met two 18-year-old guys from England, who appeared to be on their first trip abroad. When I met them, they were recounting tales of their past few days spent in a local village “where no other Westerner has set foot in before.” While you may laugh at their naïveté, I found their buoyant enthusiasm endearing and almost contagious. Listening to them, you can’t help but feel excited about travel again; the fresh exhilaration of seeing or experiencing something for the first time.
Interacting with them reminded me of the one thing we should never lose – our sense of wonder. We may have gone through plenty of varied experiences, which makes it easy to slip into the “been there, done that” mindset. However, even if you may feel like you’ve seen it all, there are always different ways of seeing the same thing, and still have an experience completely different from all your other experiences.
How? Here are some suggestions:
1. Be A Kid Again
You know how kids get fascinated by the littlest things? That’s because human beings are born with an innate sense of curiosity and fearlessness, which only gets sullied as we get older. While it can be difficult to shed your “adult” sense of self-consciousness, sometimes you just got to ignore the dissuasive thoughts in your mind and just do it. Wanna torpedo off a cliff into the ocean? Why not? Wanna break into song while running errands? Go for it!
We often worry so much about what others will think that we censor our words and confine ourselves to doing what’s “normal” or “acceptable”. However, isn’t it tiring to constantly put a lid on who we truly are? It’s only when we step out of this safe zone that we start to feel exhilarated and excited about life again.
2. Record The Moment
Although this article claims that using a device to record experiences may cause you to lose the memories instead, I’ll like to suggest that when used sparingly, a camera can actually help you find new ways to look at things. That’s because you’ll always be looking out for a fresh angle, or seeking out beauty in the seemingly ugly or mundane. I was recently in Yangon and wasn’t particularly enjoying myself; I found the city chaotic and dirty. However, while lugging a heavy bag across an overhead bridge one morning, I found myself pausing to enjoy the cool drizzle and being high above the maddening crowds. In that few seconds, I found myself thinking, “Okay, maybe this place isn’t so bad.” And to remember that moment, I snapped a quick picture (see below).
If you’re not into photography, try penning down your experiences. It helps you remember what you did and gives you an opportunity to reflect, instead of simply going through the motions then asking, “Ok, that’s done. What’s next?”
3. Talk To Others
Let’s face it. When we hang out with the same group of friends too frequently, we run the risk of groupthink. How are we ever going to get a fresh perspective on anything if we’re always interacting with people who share the same ideals and viewpoints? The beauty of travelling (and in particular, backpacking) is you get to meet people from all over the world and from all walks of life. Over hours of trekking through the Burmese countryside, I spent time discussing everything from books and music to euthanasia and Singapore’s death penalty with a 24-year-old Belgian girl, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There’re precious few things more soul-nourishing than an engaging conversation where you walk away feeling like you learned something new. Even if you’re not on the road travelling, it’s still a good idea to continually seek out new people to talk to and exchange ideas with. Here’s a little challenge: the next time you’re at a party, try striking a conversation with the person you think you’re LEAST likely to have anything in common with. You may just find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Of course, these are just some suggestions. The most important thing to remember is, simply approach life with a sense of curiosity and desire to learn. Paradoxically, it’s when we remove our attitude of “Impress me,” that we’re more likely to actually be impressed.
About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.
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