Bangkok was the first destination. What it means is that I knew it was Bangkok but where in Bangkok? More often, we try to forget the vastness of our mother earth and just assume that things can be easy. Bangkok is one big city and not knowing where you want to go after coming out of an airport is a case of insanity. Tired due to lack of sleep and early morning blues; the answer to the taxi driver's question of "Where to?" after exiting Suvarnabhumi airport was confusion and exchanged looks.
We did spend a good 30 minutes soon after landing trying to figure out where to go. A true traveler has no fixed plan, and has no intent on arriving - Laozi. I so believe this. What fun is it if you know which hotel you are staying, what kind of bed you will have and what food you will eat for your next meal? How predictable? OR how so BORING?
Thus, never thought while flying or back home when planning where to stay, what to do, what to eat. All that was known was the cities in that order so as to book the flight tickets. I have always thought if I was a traveler or a tourist? Which category do I belong? Is there a distinction between the two? At least not for the locals of the place. We are all visitors to them.
To me, there is a distinction. I call myself a traveler; oh no! not the kind who shun the "touristy" places like monuments, heritage sites, museums, parks, markets. I would definitely visit those touristy places; if not what else will I have to see? But additionally, I would also explore the hidden gems of the land; to get an authentic experience. Now such places have also become 'touristy' with travel shops offering an 'authentic' experience.
Anyway, my point is a traveler should be open minded and embrace the place as is without complaints with a hunger to experience. Oh yeah! there were times when I exclaimed "How do they eat this?" but this is my natural human tendency. Complaining is what one must avoid.
The mystique that surrounds the traveler - aah no words to express. Folks, go out and experience is what I would say. The spirit of adventure, grittiness and that urge to experience the unknown is how a traveler differs from a tourist. But its difficult to be a pure traveler; my own travels have been touristy often but cant be avoided. Just the spirit and open mindedness is not enough; one needs enough time as well; free from the clutches of career, finance and responsibilities. I dont get the luxury of letting myself lose with time being more luxurious commodity than budget. How I wish my parents left me good property and money! :-P
So I wouldn't agree if someone said a traveler is one who eats only local food, moves very slowly or lives in a shack to live the way a local would does not necessarily make one a traveler. I have seen such 'travelers' mingling with fellow travelers holing up in a hostel sipping cheap beers; not really venturing out anywhere to experience the place or talk to locals. To me, its about learning something new, experiencing the place, taking a piece of the spirit of the place with me when I leave. The thirst grows and compels only some of us and prepares you for the next you wouldn't even dream of. I never thought I would turn up one fine day in the rain forests of Costa Rica or feel the silk cotton trees outgrowing in the ruins of Ta Prohm at Siem Reap. And who knows maybe I would be walking the landscape of Tierra del Fuego on my way to Antarctica?
What each one of us gain is our own making; the goal is learning about yourself and the world and discovering yourself in the process. Every destination is not a check list to be ticked off; but a point of departure to another place. It need not be exotic location; it could be anywhere. A traveler cant differentiate between a good place and a bad place, wont be able to answer "Which is the best place you have been yet?" For him, every place is unique and offers something different and the possibilities are endless.
When you are a traveler; you are blessed to experience every little thing and cursed with a drive to discover.
Aw, I started to write about Bangkok and realized I deviated. The travel bug in me took over. I will leave this piece as is; Bangkok in my next post :)