On the road to understanding

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.Image

 

I flip through my used, worn out copy of Jack Kerouac’s, “On the Road,” and find myself comparing then and now. Not necessarily the economy, living standards or general way of life, but more like the attitudes of the individuals in the book and the way they demand adventure. Why don’t people think like Dean anymore? Why don’t we live spontaneously? In a simpler form, why don’t we do exactly what we want? 

Obviously, there are struggles in life – obstacles, nay-sayers, reality – but there are small, easy ways to better ourselves and enjoy our time on this planet. For instance, why not book a flight to India for a week? If money weren’t an obstacle, would you? I worry that many people nowadays are too comfortable where they are, and when this happens, we can’t grow. The most understanding and open-minded individuals I have ever met have a hefty traveling resumé. They’ve explored and immersed themselves in a location or culture unlike their own for no other reason but to learn from it. I truly believe the best way to understand another person is to learn about their lifestyle, culture, religion, environment or language. We all have deep roots that extend well into these facets of our lives, and if we start to understand where these roots come from and why, then we can only grow in understanding. Does that make sense? Our beliefs and opinions are not just created out of thin air, so we should work to figure out what has aided in forming them. Don’t just read a book to learn – take yourself there! 

If you want to go, that should be reason enough. The tickets may be expensive, but the experience is sure to be priceless. In any case, there are ways to save if it’s an adventurous learning experience you’re after! 

Through my travels, I’ve nixed the idea of hotel stays for the most part because I prefer not to pay out the nose! However, many Americans hear the word, “hostel,” and immediately picture a dirty, unsafe, sketchy room shared by 20 other random foreign people. Let me destroy that stereotype right now! If you’re planning a trip and want to book a place to stay the night, you need to check out Hostels.com. I’ve used this site a bunch, and it’s so simple! You control exactly the kind of place you want to stay. Determine how much you’re willing to spend, what area you want to be in, what amenities you prefer and more! The reviews and ratings make it easy to find out if the hostel is legitimate and safe too, which has all too often saved my skin as I’ve hopped across the globe. I know this sounds like a shameless plug for the site, but I wouldn’t encourage it if I hadn’t found such success myself! And come on, doesn’t £20 sound much better than £150 for a night’s stay in London? So you can sort of live like Dean Moriarty hopping from bed to bed, but in a much safer way.

And what about meals and activities? I relied heavily on Groupon and LivingSocial if I ever found myself in high tourist areas. These babies got me meal deals I shared with friends and tickets to events, shows and other adventures that saved me a pretty penny. It also doesn’t hurt to hit up the local market and buy meal staples to make your own sandwiches or have snacks to munch whenever your tummy growls and your pockets ache. I took a trip down to the beaches of Southern Spain for a few days and only spent money in a restaurant once! For everything else, I bought food at the market and cooked it myself in the kitchen at my hostel. Gave me an opportunity to mingle with other hostel goers too! 

If these little money saving tips can’t convince you to hop on a plane, train or car to go exploring, then check out TripAdvisor.com to hear from other expert travelers and get more advice and tips. I’ve asked a few questions on the site myself and gotten some very helpful responses in return.

My point is if you want to understand others with a diverse background, the most fulfilling way to do that is to envelope yourself in their environment and culture. You’ll learn so much so quickly, and you’ll find your entire outlook on life can change with just one trip. And if you disagree, it’s probably because you haven’t ventured outside of your comfort zone. 

Come on, we modern day Dean Moriartys are waiting for ya! 

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