Uh, well. . .sort of. Whether or not you can call On the Road to Ithaca a ‘travel blog’ depends a great deal on what you consider travel to be. I would call it a travel blog, for two main reasons.
One, the shoe fits. I am traveling. I am from Canada. I was in India. Now I am going to Australia. But what about once I arrive in Melbourne? Once I find an apartment and a job and settle in for a bit am I still traveling? How long can you stay in a foreign country before ‘travel’ becomes ‘immigration’?
The question of ‘what is a traveler when they’re not traveling?’ is one that’s knocked me on my ass before and on I won’t deign to try answering it as some footnote within this post. But I will point out that no country is inherently exotic. No matter where you are, if you were from there, you would not be traveling, at least not in the geographical sense of the word.
Despite ego-tourists who love to collect countries as though they were notches on their bedpost, the best parts of travel have little to do with the amount of stamps in your passport. In fact, most long-term travellers will tell you the most rewarding travel experiences they’ve had tend to be the slow ones, the ones where they had a chance to really immerse themselves in the culture of a place, to truly experience a country as opposed to fly through it on some whirlwind 5 month round-the-world jaunt. And one unexpectedly rewarding country we tend to take for granted is our own. Particularly after seeing other parts of the world, attempting to be a tourist within your own culture can be an interesting exercise in perception (and one I tend to neglect taking full advantage of, as seen here).
See, a big part of the addiction of travel is the education that stems from it. And while some people do keep crossing borders sheerly for bragging rights, most long term travellers stay on the road as long as they do for the perspectives and wisdom that leaving your field of comfort to experience unfamiliar situations and challenges affords you. So then, travel is less about a change in physical location, and more about a disruption in familiarity; abandoning habitual routine and throwing yourself into uncertainty, giving yourself up to fate. Which I tend to do with alarming regularity.
The second reason I’d call RTI a travel blog is that I don’t have anything else to call it. Or, more specifically, I don’t have anything else I want to call it.
I gave some thought to this when I first decided I wanted to write a blog. What was I going to write about, and why? Where was my focus, and what was my motivation?
I had a wide variety of reasons for wanting to write, but foremost among them was a desire to share, and to connect. Being nomadic, connections to non-geographical communities are important to me. No man (or woman) is an island and all that. I wanted to keep those I loved updated about where I was and what I was doing, all well as make new connections with people I’d yet to meet.
But I didn’t believe I had a whole lot to report about the everyday specifics of travel that you couldn’t find better, more timely info on somewhere else. At least, not in the sense of ‘I went here and did this and it cost this many dollars and was this many awesomes’. Because we’re living in the 21st century, man, and I think it’s a pretty safe prediction that travel writers and guides are going the way of the dodo, at least in the sense of accommodation/restaurant advice. Why would you trust the opinion of a single contributor for advice on where to eat in Kiev when you could hit Yelp or Urbanspoon and access the collective wisdom of not only the traveling community using the app, but the people that actually live there?
I will probably continue to report on the things that really stood out for me about a place (ala my ‘India in Review’ posts) but I just felt that writing extensive reports about every decent place I ate or slept along the way would be an unnecessarily spewing of words onto the already steaming pile of content vomit that is the internet.
And I didn’t want to do that. It just makes the things that are useful harder to find.
And I definitely didn’t want to write ‘travel porn’. That’s even less helpful. Oh, you know the type. Those blogs that are all ‘I went to this beautiful place and did this amazing thing with these wonderful people and every moment was life-changing with absolutely no negative experiences ever and here is the link to my sponsor’. Or ‘I went here and did this fucking awesome thing, because I am also awesome, but here is absolutely no informative advice whatsoever as to HOW I did it or how much it cost’. Or ‘I went to this really sketchy place and it was really difficult to get to and so completely different from the Western world and it was so dangerous and I am very brave and poverty guns war.’
Blow me, ego-tourists, and your habit of name-dropping countries as through they’re celebrity friends of yours. I don’t care where you’ve been, I care what you learned from it. And if you’re going to tell me how awesome and fun something was, I want to know how I can do it too. Otherwise you’re just bragging, and no one likes that guy.
So what did I have that I believed was worth sharing?
I wanted to share stories from my own personal experience that hopefully entertained, informed or inspired. After all, it’s encouraging to read about someone else doing something you thought you couldn’t, and helpful to hear about how they accomplished it. It’s got to be one of the core reasons anyone starts a blog really, whether they’re willing to admit it or not: I felt I had something worth sharing that was interesting (or entertaining, or helpful) enough that people should take time out of their lives to read about it. Which is narcissistic, really.
But ever since I’d begun traveling I’d become happier and healthier and the reasons for that were largely a series of shifts in perspective that other people were just as capable of having. I wanted to share the experiences that led to me to that. Desperately. Constantly. That and what I continue to learn and experience as I remain in a nomadic lifestyle: the things I get to do and the times I fuck up and the things I find and lose and gain. . .and not all of those stories were necessarily about ‘travel’. Because it wasn’t travel itself I most wanted to share, but what travel had given me, and how it changed me. Travel was just the catalyst.
Which brings me (finally) back to how I don’t have anything else I’m willing to call this blog. I gave thought to the sort of things I’d be likely to write about. There were concrete things that were likely to come up: things I love to do like fight and write and scuba and rock climb and, yes, backpack about.
But more important to me were writing about the abstract things, the philosophies that had shaped my perception. Things like mindfulness, responsibility, and the pursuit of happiness. Self awareness and personal growth. Freedom of choice. Social change. Sex positivity. Positivity in general. And there’s just no umbrella those things all fit under that doesn’t make me come off sounding like either a part of a hippie love circle or some hipster obsessed with buzz-words like ‘Life-Hacking’ (. . .yes, I do tag a lot of my posts as life-hacking. Stop judging me. There’s no other word for it, dammit). Neither one of those things are innately bad things to be. . .but they’re not me. It’s not my voice.
First and foremost I identify as a traveler, at least for now. So, for now, this is a travel blog. I could say that it is a blog ‘about traveling, both geographically and internally’. . . But every time I try to say something like that the words get wedged in my throat and make me gag.
It suffices to say that I feel I have some good stories and maybe even some advice worth sharing, for the insight and/or the lolz, and that’s enough for now. Enough for me, both in my life and in this blog. Much like its author, this blog is a work in progress, not yet entirely certain which box it fits in, if any. And that’s okay. ‘Not all who wander are lost’ and such.
So, if you run into me on the street and ask me what I write about I will reply that “I write a travel blog.
. . .Sort of.”
*Author photos featured in this post are from, in order, Dahab (Egypt), Woody Point (Newfoundland, Canada), Valley of the Kings (Egypt), Mt. Sinai (Egypt), Galway (Ireland) and Mt Sinai again.
. . . .It’s an Egypt heavy post for some reason.