Follow Your Inner Guide
I always ditch jy guidebook and follow my inner guide. A bit weird as a traveller I am, in that, I usually don’t like the sort of places other people do. I’m not trying to be controversial, it’s just the way I am. I rarely follow the masses. I like to do my own thing.
However, one thing I do agree with most people is that travelling is one of the most exciting, fulfilling, life-changing experiences that we can have, either collectively or travelling alone. No doubt if you are reading this you probably feel the same way too.
Cool, now we can be friends. Like real friends.
One thing that bothers me about travelling though is following the well-trodden path, seeing the same old sights as everyone else just because somebody told me to or it was in a guidebook.
That’s why I say you should ditch your guidebook and go your own way. Follow your inner guide.
Sure, guidebooks will get you so far but in order to have real, meaningful travel experiences you have to get lost. I don’t mean that as an insult (hey dude, get lost!!!) I mean get off the beaten track and find those hidden gems that the book doesn’t even consider. You’ll be glad you did.
Forget about MUST SEE because must see really doesn’t mean shit.
I have visited many countries where people have said, “You MUST see” this place or “You MUST do that”…whatever, and in the early days of my travels I used to follow this advice, terrified that if I didn’t I would be missing out on something.
And that, my friends, is the trap.
FEAR OF MISSING OUT
Follow Your Inner Guide: Fear of missing out is the perception that other people are having more fun than you or having more exciting experiences. Surprisingly, guidebooks can trigger this emotional reaction in us very easily, if we feel we must see what it has told us to or we will somehow have lesser experience and miss out.
It’s natural for us as social creatures to want to have shared experiences and that’s a good thing. Sharing an adventure with someone makes it more fun and together we can compare collective memories of our experience. Sharing and collaborating helps us to build meaningful relationships with other people.
But, when those other people have an experience without us, we tend to feel a little rejected, maybe even a little jealous. We have a natural desire to stay connected with others and when this connection is broken it can trigger those feelings of anxiety and loss.
It’s easy for us to feel that we are missing out on something if we don’t follow what the guidebook tells us we must.
For example, if the book says we should visit the Eiffel Tower simply because we are visiting France it would be easy to feel we had missed out on the experience if we didn’t get a chance to see it. But at the end of the day, it’s just a chunk of pointy metal and France has so much more to offer than that.
Missing out on one thing means we can focus our attention on another. One that is unique to us that we will remember forever.
DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE
How many times have you been ‘sold’ the idea that you MUST SEE the latest blockbuster movie? You believe all the marketing hype, your friends are excited, YOU are excited, you pay your money and take your seat. The screen flickers into action and then……..pffft – it’s a dud!
You leave the cinema feeling pretty disappointed.
I can tell you from experience that most of the guidebook recommendations will leave you with a similar feeling.
Follow Your Inner Guide: Think about it.
When you go to the cinema you don’t like EVERY movie you see do you? There are times that the plot is a bit thin or the characters lack any real depth. Sometimes the acting is terrible.
Sometimes the best movies are the ones nobody has heard of. The ones without all the hype and special effects.
Well, its the same with travelling, most times the best places are the ones nobody knows about.
Don’t fall for the hype. You’ll have a better experience if you follow your INNER guide and get off the beaten track.
YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION
You have no obligation just follow your inner guide
Sometimes just because someone else thought somewhere was amazing, doesn’t mean that you will too. You are under no obligation to like anything if you don’t want to.
I spent a year travelling through Southeast Asia following a Lonely Planet guidebook and let me tell you, within a couple of weeks I was starting to get the feeling of, ‘seen one temple, seen them all’. Yes, they were beautiful, majestic, spiritual places, but once I’d been to a couple, I really didn’t feel the need to see any more.
I’ve had similar experiences the world over. I visited the Olympic stadium in Barcelona because a local guidebook recommended it and it was….BORING. Where’s the fun in looking at an empty stadium?
This I am sure, would have been different in its prime, with lots of stuff going on inside, but as a stand-alone attraction, it sucked.
When I was in Lisbon every guide I’d read said, “You MUST try Pastels De Nata” – I took their advice and found that they were just plain old custard tarts and nothing exciting.
I have learned over time to trust my inner guide and do what FEELS right. And not what some guidebook tells me that I should.
IT WON’T MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON
Going to a famous landmark or popular sight is probably going to be great for your Instagram and you may get five or ten minutes of pleasure from being there, but then what? It won’t make you a better person.
What might make you a better person though is to find somewhere different, have a unique experience that you can treasure forever and learn from it? Life is all about experiences. It’s our interactions with others that make it so worthwhile, not another photo of a damn statue.
Travel is not about ticking boxes on a checklist and there won’t be any special prizes if you do.
If you follow the guidebook, you’ll have the experience of whoever wrote the guidebook, not your own. I figured this out the hard way after following a Lonely Planet book for a month. And I wondered why I wasn’t having fun. Once I’d thrown away the book, everything changed.
One of the things I noticed very quickly, once I’d learned to trust my inner guide, was that my senses became much more acute. I became more aware of my surroundings and started noticing the beauty in everything around me. Simply because I wasn’t nosing deep in the book all the time.
I started to realize that if you are concentrating on one thing, you are likely to miss so much around you. Almost like when a horse wears blinkers and can only see straight ahead.
I found that I had more time to explore the places around me. This is because I wasn’t in a hurry to rush to see the next guidebook entry.
Most of all, I started to relax and have fun. I remembered why I loved travelling so much and it wasn’t about following someone else’s rules. It was about breaking them.
It was about setting my own agenda and having the time of my life.
You’ll be surprised at how much more time you’ll have to explore on your own terms. Only if you follow my advice.
Guidebooks are banished from my life forever now and if someone says I should go and see a castle or a monument or even a great archeological site I politely ignore them.
I mean, who wants to look at old rocks anyway?
Paul Keegan is a UK based writer, musician, traveller, and the brains behind Planet Crawler. Far too tall for a normal human, Paul is also the world’s worst dancer and once won a trophy for football without even being in the game.