You might find it a very strange name ‘ Gullivering‘…
For most of you, it draws its roots in the name of Lemuel Gulliver, a fictional character created by the Irish satirist Jonathan Swift. Gulliver is not the fierce adventurer he aspires to be or thinks he is. He is just a very (un)fortunate (depending how you see his travels) person losing the perception of reality while discovering and experiencing new things. In the end, he just wants to escape his present life in more than one way depending how you read the story.
He can just be inventing things to make his life appear less miserable. Or, it is also possible that he lived these experiences but made them look improbable and unbelievable. Or, his ideals took over his realities even in his brain.
So, why taking such a weird and untrustworthy character as a alias for my blog? Am I going to lie to you? I hope not! I am just a strong believer in the naïve discoveries you do whilst travelling. Here are the Principles by which I abide:
- Never plan anything.
I do not think you will necessarily see more things and meet more interesting people if you carefully plan your travels. It is the reason why I never check monuments or classic tours before I am in a new city. It would make me feel pressured to achieve the whole thing in one day, and I would not even enjoy it. Just take the time to look around you, and spot the things that may interest you. If you plan, you will lose on so many opportunities to actually visit the ‘real’ city…
- Follow people who know their way.
So, you can be mad about the big landmarks and follow tourists who have the big camera hanging on their chest or the last up-to-date travel guide. We, tourists or visitors, are easy to recognise. It is slightly more complex when you look for hidden secrets or treasures that just the locals know. What does a local look like? In my experience, I would tell you to follow people who look like they know where they are going. People with phones are good to follow as well! Or people who look absent-minded. The locals also never seem to pay attention to what surrounds them. They could look blasé or just too rushed to care.
- Take your time
I have already said that, but it is one of my main rules. Just look up, look around, look behind. There is so much more than meets the eye! Walk a particular street twice or thrice as you may see something new each time. I know that as tourists, we feel we NEED to see everything. We are afraid it might disappoint a few people in our direct cirlcles that we could not actually take a picture of Trafalgar Square or the Brandenburger Tor . We might even resent or disappoint ourselves…But, in the end, we (still) live in a world of easy movements. If you have not seen all the things you wanted to see at the end of your stay, it is no big deal (tell your angry friends to go on google images, or better, to buy a return ticket themselves!)
- Live in the foreign country you are visiting
I have discovered this about myself: I prefer travelling when I know I live in the country. It reassures me in a way. It feels home! And then again, it removes the pressure off my shoulders because I know I could come back whenever I want. This is a difficult principle to achieve, but I really think it is the only way to get to know a place.
- Speak to locals
You may not know the language, but who cares? Even the slightest effort to pronounce a word in the language of the country will make people warm to you. Speak to the bus ticket seller, and try to ask him about the city. Or, buy an icecream and ask the girl what is to be seen around. Do not do the famous English act of directly talking in your language without trying the language of the autochthons (please, first ask if the people speak English. It is annoying when someone surmises you speak the international language just because who does not?) When you show interest in a very traditional aspect of the country, people will immediately feel they can talk to you!
- Be approachable and open-minded
Yes, you are a tourist, but it does not mean you can shut off with your earphones attached to your face. Try to mix with everyone, and enjoy smiling to people and saying hello (or sorry, or anything) You will find that you feel part of something even if it is frail and short-lasting. Try to reach people outside of your own language or country group. Be ready to embrace a new life with a new culture, new ways and doings. You can compare, but do not judge. I like the moment when people come to ask you for directions like you appear to be a local. It is a very rewarding sensation! I also have in mind that people see you as a sample of your own countrymen. Your country will be judged according to how you behave (French people are loud, yes, so what? We are also very charming!).
- Try new things
As you can easily guess, I am not a fan of travel guides that tell you what to see or what to eat. I would rather observe. Check the menus of different restaurants and decide on what is more appetising. If you go to Italy, try to taste something else than pasta or pizza. You can even go to the cinema and watch the new popular Spanish film in Sevilla. The feeling that you have lived your own experience is above magical. I always feel my travels to be impersonal if I follow the crowd. You can create you own memories and tell your own stories if you decide to be original.
I am sure I am missing a few Principles, but that should be enough for a start!
If you have other Travellers’ Principles, please do share! I would be interested in knowing what makes you happy in your peregrinations.
I M Gullivering.