What is travelling? Travelling is far more than visiting new places. It is not just a check-list or a scratch-off map of the countries you’ve been to (We got one of those once. It made us so confused. We had no idea what to scratch off. For example after being in Madrid should we scratch off just the city or the whole country? And what about the countries we only drove through and stayed for one night? … ). Travelling is feeling, experiencing magic on your road. There are times when we talk about our travels and our family and friends say: “WOW! How is it possible that all of that happened?” Indeed, some stories are even for us difficult to believe. But how to find this MAGIC????
You need two things:
- Smart choice making
Let me start with choice making coz even the biggest luck needs a good soil to grow 🙂
Well, first you are choosing your destination. Let’s not fool ourselves, it is much easier to find magic and meet amazing people if you for example decide to go hitchhiking in Armenia than to spend a weekend in Paris, running from one tourist attraction to another. It seems the more tourists, the less magic. It often goes like this: We are here for a short time, want to see it all, want to have great pictures, share it with our friends, etc. A picture, a smile, a picture, status updates, “uuu, 5 people have already liked it.”. Probably all of us have done it at least once and there is noone to blame for. We’ve done trips like this as well. We ran through Paris getting to all famous museums and the Louvre is not a perfect place to make new friends, unless you still hope to charm Mona Lisa 😉 But there were as well moments during our travels, when we experienced something very special. But this was rather in Belgrade, where with a group of locals that we’ve just met we sang “Vidovdan”, talked about Serbian history all night and almost missed our flight 🙂 (@Slavko: thank you for being such a great host 🙂 ).
If you remember any fairy tale from your childhood, you’ve probably already figured it out: magic doesn’t happened in palaces to the happy and rich 😉 All-inclusive holidays, beach resorts, luxury hotels, or even hotels in general seem to be a hostile environment for magic to happen. They are an artificial creation of tourist business. Here locals don’t stay but work and are always somehow below you, doing all the work for you, without being seen or noticed. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with the house keeper of your hotel? Exactly. So there is not really an opportunity to make friends with locals. What about other guests? You probably meet them only in the lobby, swimming pool, hotel bar or restaurant. But ask yourself the question: Whom are you actually meeting there? Here a small digression: I remember the answer of our newly met friend Zahar to our invitation to Munich: “Sorry guys, but the West is not interesting for me.” That time it was a revelation for me, coz I finally figured out, why we almost never meet magical people during our Western Europe trips, well THEY ARE NOT THERE!
Our favorite places are hostels and – since our daughter was born – private rooms rented by locals. When there were only the two of us, we stayed only in hostels. Shared bathrooms were not a problem for us and shared kitchens, mmmm, that’s where magic happens. A shared kitchen gives you a cozy background and a homelike atmosphere. Therefore, it is easier to start talking while having a cup of tea or coffee. One of our magical hostel talks took place in Penthouse Hostel in Yerevan in Armenia. We met amazing people from Ukraine & Russia and ended up talking for half of the night like old friends about absolutely everything: history of Caucasus, apartments in Moscow, Argentina, our wedding and how kids were baptized during communism in deep Ukraine. (@Zahar: can’t wait for the next time we meet 🙂 ). As well people working in hostels are much more open and it’s much easier to become friends with them too (@Ani and @Catherine: we’ll never forget you girls :* )
Staying with locals (private rooms)
Well, if you are travelling with a small baby, change diapers every 2-3 hours, and breastfeed 5 times per night, you simply need privacy and a place you can charge your batteries undisturbed. A private room with a bathroom was the ideal solution for us. We still could have close contacts and talks with our hosts and chit-chats with other guests, while at the same time enjoying quiet moments with just the three of us. 99% of our hosts were thrilled that we were travelling with Zosia and often upgraded our rooms for the same price or at least tried to make our stay as comfortable as possible. Staying longer to cook, more time to pack, more flexible hours of check-in and check-out? No problem! Moreover, staying with locals gives you an opportunity to have access to lots of useful first hand information and services. Many of the hosts offer trips around the area, as well as sometimes more adventures excursions such as zip line or rafting. And in case they don’t, they at least know where to get it cheaper.
If you have a choice to eat in a fancy restaurant or have a homemade dinner prepared by your hosts, choose the second one. Food will most likely be better and hosts may actually join you, and this is how the magic starts. In many countries we’ve been to, eating together is like a ritual. Our Armenian family friend said once: “I’m not enriching myself at the expense of someone with whom I eat at the same table.” And it’s true, sitting together at one table is sacred. The magical bond between participants is created. The stories you’ll hear, the songs you’ll sing, the people you’ll meet…
- Luck, good fortune, or rather God’s Will? No matter what you believe in, you need it. Because no matter how well you choose and prepare, some things just happen and you cannot control them. As you cannot control luck, don’t have too high expectations. Not in every hostel you will meet people with whom you have memorable talks and not every host will join you during dinner and make it magical. But the possibility it may happen is definitely higher if you choose places that are more magic friendly.
Do you dare? 🙂Feel free to share: