A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about travelling

The Case Against Flying

Because shooting through the air in a metal case is boring and only add cultural shock to your adventure.

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dont-fly.jpg

I think that I’ve mentioned it a few times already: I consider flying as cheating. So, since I’ve just returned to the African mainland – by plane – after a few weeks on Cape Verde, I should probably explain myself. It’s not that I don’t like the act of flying or is afraid of it; I rather like it. But when it comes to travelling I find it... aesthetically and essentially (for lack of better words) wrong.

Travelling is, to me, essentially a matter of experiences. Whether these are cultural, historical, natural or something entirely else. Flights are not. Flying is the complete opposite. It’s humanity’s most efficient mean of transportation. Planes are inherently time machines, moving people in time and space. The time travel is most evident when we’re flying across time zones.

Cultural Adjustment Curve

Cultural Adjustment Curve

That is, however, not why I dislike flying. (I really want a real time machine!). It’s the travel in space that I mind. Step into that metal cylinder we call a plane in one part of the world, a few hours later we step out somewhere completely different. The problem is that the world doesn’t work like that. The stark difference we feel when flying from, say, Europe or North America to Africa or Asia isn’t real. Sure, it’s real for those people taking the flight, and many of them will probably experience what we call ‘cultural shock’ once they arrive. Simply because the transformation in space is so sudden that it takes some time to get adapt to.

Flamingo in Andalusia

Flamingo in Andalusia

This experience of cultural shock is easily avoided by not flying. Things on the ground change gradually. Consider my trip. Had I just flow from Copenhagen to Dakar (where I am now) it would have been a significant change. Instead, I’ve passed through a number of ‘cultural belts’. The first being Andalusia in Southern Spain. It’s Spanish and European, but having historically also been part of Islamic empires it probably has more in common with Morocco than with (secular, Scandinavian) Denmark. Another transition happened as I moved from to the very conservative and Middle Eastern-ish Mauritania or more open-minded and Sub-Saharan Senegal. Both Islamic countries, the area around the Senegal River, which marks the border, is less conservative than most of the rest of Mauritania on the northern side, but more conservative than the rest of Senegal on the southern. Travelling over land has eased transformation from Scandinavia to Africa in a way that would be impossible by flying.

Overland Travel

Overland Travel

Cultural Shock is basically a lack of understanding about how a given culture works and how it is different from the one you're used to. People and cultures are different too. But travelling over land gives a distinct feeling for where people and cultures are different and where they aren’t. It provides a better understand of who you’re visiting. By experiencing the transformations from Northern to Southern Europe, from southern Europe to North Africa and from North Africa to Sub-Saharan West Africa I have gotten a much better understanding of how people across these regions are similar and different.

Walk if you have to

Walk if you have to

However you go about your non-flying (driving, biking, taking the train, hitch, sail or purchasing a donkey cart) it will give you many more experiences, make you infinitely richer on adventures and be a lot more fun than just flying. As flying is essentially a somewhat tedious affair (unless you’re afraid of it, and they you should avoid it anyway).

Fine, if you’re crossing oceans, are in a hurry (say, on an extended weekend) or if your purpose is not to experience anything, but just to lazy about on a beach, go ahead. Jump on that plane. But the next time you’re taking a two-week vacation somewhere, snub the aeroplane, extend your vacation to three weeks and use that extra week on getting to and from your destinations properly, visiting the fascinating towns, sights and people between your home and wherever you’re going! Especially, if you’re travelling within Europe where distances are incredibly short.

Fogo Island (Aldo Bien, Wiki Commons)

Fogo Island (Aldo Bien, Wiki Commons)

The biggest problem these days are that aeroplane tickets are so damn cheap. Ignore that. Travelling shouldn’t be about saving money. Go the adventures route instead! If you have any sense of adventurous or travelling spirit, it’ll thank you for it (and so will the environment).

So why did I fly to Cape Verde then? It simply was the only mean of transportation. There aren’t any ships from the African mainland. Container ships travel directly there directly from Europe and the private yachts set sail almost exclusively from the Canaries. If I wanted to visit the Verdes, flying was – unfortunately – my only option.

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Posted by askgudmundsen 06:45 Archived in Cape Verde Tagged flying culture no north africa transportation europe andalusia travelling experience non cape_verde cultural_shock Comments (0)

The Pros of Celebrating Birthdays Abroad

Celebrating one's birthday away from home inevitably means celebrating away from friends and family. However, there is also pros to this kind of celebration.

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My 18th years birthday was held in Rome, the 20th in Egypt, the 24th in Canada, the 27th in Mongolia and now I have turned 30 in Morocco. So though it sounds like bragging, I am getting pretty good at celebrating abroad. The obvious con of celebrating your birthday abroad is that you do not celebrate with your friends and family, but instead with complete strangers.

Rooftop Celebration

Rooftop Celebration

That is also the first pro. For ‘strangers’ do not stay strangers for very long when you travel. Especially when travelling alone. You simply become more outreaching and engaging to not go insane from loneliness. This is why the same three or so questions always initiate a new meeting between travellers at hostels, guesthouses and bars across the world: “So, where are you from?”, “How long have you been in *insert country*?” and “How long are you staying for?”. It is simply the etiquette for approaching new people to create friends out of strangers. Add to this, that most travellers are alike (compared to the general population). Young of mind, adventurous, fond of the unknown, open-minded and in need of turning strangers into friends. So why is this a pro of celebrating birthdays abroad? Because most travellers like a party and a birthday is an excuse for having a one. Parties are and will always be the easiest way to turn strangers into friends. So birthdays make up a fast track of making new friends, where the alternatives are rather stiff conversations over breakfast or semi-forced travel talk on a roof terrace as the sun sets. Just because making friends is a necessity and travellers are alike, does not mean that it is a piece of cake. A birthday help smoothes things along.
Secondly, having people who, few hours or days ago, were complete strangers celebrating you feels splendid indeed. That people you just met, think that they should celebrate you is really something, which makes the brain cells that control self-worth tingle. Thirdly, you hostel will do nice things for you, e.g. give you a free room/bed, provide dinner, a birthday cake or something else that will make you really happy when you travel on a budget. Sleeping arrangements are averagely a quarter of my budget when travelling. So I happily take any freebie I can get close to – and birthdays often equal freebies.

Room Upgrate (and a fes)

Room Upgrate (and a fes)

This year was no exception. Upgraded from a dorm bed to a private room, birthday cake on the house, birthday songs in English, Spanish, Korean and Arabic, and a party that included alcohol, something rare in an Islamic country like Morocco (though it is not illegal here). The point of this is not only to brag about my birthdays abroad or tell people at home that I had a nice birthday without them. I sincerely would encourage you to try this. At least once in your life. Travel abroad, preferably alone, during your birthday week, and try it out. I cannot stress enough how fantastic it is to have people who barely know you, celebrating you. If you feel sorry for friends and family, you can always through a birthday for those people a week before your actually birthday. Trust me; they will probably not care that much.

Goodbye Fes

Goodbye Fes

On that note, I hope you will give it a go. Having also enjoyed this birthday abroad, I arrive in Rabat today and move in with the host family (more about the later), whom I will be living with for the next four weeks of French lessons. I start school tomorrow.

Take care, wherever you are!

Posted by askgudmundsen 02:56 Archived in Morocco Tagged travel birthday travelling abroad fes celebration fez Comments (0)

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