Embrace the Difference!

It is impossible to not notice differences when traveling, but that is half the beauty and fun of traveling! It is getting away from your comfort zone. It is seeing something new. The whole point of traveling is doing something different and embracing those differences. Does every person have prejudices and different beliefs; of course. Does our gender, location we grew up, social class and ethnicity affect our opinions and biases; of course. Those are facts. As a writer, and essentially as a journalist, we can never be 100% unbiased, because we can be biased when we don’t even realize we are! To back this point up, I am going to refer to Basnett, an author who discusses women’s travel writing and the style of women’s travel writing. Basnett says that just like men, their writing variations, “Derive from differences of social class, age, and religion, from shifts in time, from journeys to different parts of the world .”

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Cigarette machine in Ireland. The government has their warning, but they still have the machines in a ton of bars. I am born and raised in the US and I think I saw two cigarette machines ever here, but it was ages ago. I have seen cigarette machines VERY recently abroad in multiple bars, restaurants, train stations, airports, so on. Is this a difference between the US and other cultures; yes. Does this mean I think the US is exhibiting colonialism and thinks we are better than all these other cultures; NO! It is just a difference, and it is interesting and fun to see these things.

So yes, we might be biased, whether unknowingly or knowingly, but the biggest distinction between travelers of the past and travelers of today is we want to see, experience, feel, know, and learn from the differences of another culture. We are not focused on colonialism. What is colonialism you ask? Colonialism is defined as, “The control or governing influence of a nation over a dependent country, territory, or people.” What does that mean? It means, one country thinks they are better than the other, or that when we travel we feel that we are superior to the places we are visiting.

Yes, other cultures are different, but today that does not mean they are inferior. Differences today in traveling and travel writing are what people seek and hope for when they travel. Another author who discussed travel writing is Bhabha, and in his essay he illustrates that the nation will never stop changing, and therefore the narrative will never have an end. The past has influenced the nation’s current state, but since you can’t predict what people will do, there is no predicting what can happen in the future. Travelers used to judge other cultures on these things, but they really do embrace it now.

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This is a regular beach bar in Ibiza, Spain. How different does it look from say a beach club in Miami? Not that different. People hear about Ibiza and think it is some crazy event everywhere with insane clubbing (yes, there is a lot of that), but the people are no different than here. The experience of Ibiza sounds like it is no different than a crazy night out in Miami or Vegas.

How do I back up these claims that we love and embrace these differences in traveling? Hostels wouldn’t be so popular; budget airlines wouldn’t exist; there wouldn’t be so many travel deal websites; how-to backpack blogs wouldn’t exist. Spurr, another well-known travel writer, discusses colonialism and how we have changed in his Rhetoric of Empire. Spurr says, that travel writing is not a single literary form, but it is now comes in many different forms to produce knowledge about other cultures; the proof I see of this: blogs, websites, budget sites. Essentially, I believe that Spurr is trying to say there are many ways to learn about a culture, but whatever form it comes in, it is good to embrace the information about this culture.

So I say all this stuff in my blog post. But what’s my personal proof to back this up? How can I relate this to me? Basically, ALL of my travels are to embrace the unknown. Does that mean everyone travels for the same reasons that I do, of course not! But in my personal experience, I LOVE see the differences. I literally get so unhappy the longer I am “stuck” in my same routine; I need to travel. Whether I am traveling abroad, or doing a weekend trip a couple hours away, my whole point of traveling is to break away from the norm. I think one of my biggest experiences of experiencing a culture so different from my own, but rather than feeling a sense of colonialism I felt a sense of love and appreciation for such a wonderful country, is when I traveled to Hungary.

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Rather than write on and on, I know that everyone loves “pretty pictures,” whether they are pretty are not. I will use my photos to discuss what I mean about embracing the differences in a culture and how traveling no longer means automatically you have a sense of colonialism.

The Market

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What a wonderful experience is was to go to the market in Budapest! They had everything there. It is so different from a typical grocery store in the US, at least from my experiences as someone living in Phoenix. Everything is fresh and family sold. The greatest thing is the sense of community you feel while there. There are so many people, locals and foreigners, but they are all there to appreciate and purchase one thing everyone needs, no matter the culture: FOOD! You see the Egg Store trading with the Cherry Store to get their daily groceries. The little children of the families run around playing. You watch the butcher, butcher!

Experiencing, and LOVING, the Local Dishes

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What a wonderful way to try and taste new food? Langos and Goulash are some of our new favorites! Traveling to completely different cultures allow you to try new foods, and perhaps find some on your new favorite!

Ruin Bars

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Ruin bars may be something that became popular in the last 10+ years, but their basis of creation stems from their communist times. Essentially, from what I learned, there were a lot of secret bars that were made from whatever products they could find, and when Budapest became a free from communist rule suddenly official bars started sprouting up all over the city. These “ruin bars” became so popular because they bar areas were bought very cheaply, and the items were made out of locally found/communist items. You can go to a ruin bar and sit on a bar stool made out of a Soviet bicycle. You can reserve a Soviet car to have your bottle service in. Honestly, it was just a total mesh of random items! I one time had a bird bath as a seat. A couple of them had parts of Soviet or WWII era German cars.How unique, and so clearly a Hungarian experience. The popular tourist Ruin Bars luckily had a mix of both locals and tourists. We also went to some very local ones, and they had the same feel, but maybe less flashier.

All of these difference, and more, made my trip. I did not notice that I was ” better” or from a “better country.” I am a traveler and to be declared a true traveler, I personally believe should embrace and accept difference of another culture. Those are the best part!!

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Mapping My Perfect Backpacking Trips

First Backpacking Trip

It was the summer between by sophomore and junior year when my boyfriend (now husband) and I backpacked through Europe for the first time. While planning the trip, we focused on the “main” historical sites like London, Paris, Florence and Rome. These cities have been so influential throughout history so we knew from the beginning we wanted to go there. We wanted to make sure no matter what happened in our lives, we got to travel to these giant and well-known cities at least once. On this trip, we also went to visit a friend in Ennis, Ireland that I met through a Student Ambassador program with Phoenix Sister Cities. We ended our trip in Dublin.

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Liz (Me) and Alex (now-husband) at the famous Spanish Steps in Rome. The steps were empty that day because it was in the middle of a giant heat wave in Italy. I got so dehydrated that day, I paid 6 Euro for a bottle of water by the Coliseum!

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Liz (Me) and Alex (now-husband) at the famous Temple Bar in Dublin. We met these guys at a Pub Crawl tour hosted by a couple of hostels in the area.They are all from Switzerland and we still talk to them today via Facebook. We didn’t hold back on the Guinness while there…This picture is a great example of how not all contact zones, or when two cultures meet, create conflict. We are lifelong friends with these people!

I am glad our first trip to Europe was all of these historic and popular destinations, but I am especially glad we backpacked in these cites rather than staying in real hotels. Hostels sound awful – Sometimes 25 people in one room, sleeping in bunk beds; having a communal shower and wearing shower shoes; locking all your items in a locker so none of your belongs get stolen. Yeah, this sounds awful, but it really is a great example of Pratt’s “contact zone.” Experiencing Europe while staying in hostels was one of my best travel decisions. This “contact zone” makes you see the world in a new and different light. You can’t help, but have a “landscape surveillance (Spurr)” in every hostel you visit. For those that don’t know – Landscape surveillance is an overall observation and reporting, not focusing on anything or anyone specific. BUT the great thing about being forced to be in this contact zone and therefore landscape surveillance your surroundings. This process allows you to have a self-evaluation.  Having this inner understanding of who you are and who you hope to be happens a lot while you travel. You see yourself grow from experiencing these contact zones and meeting people of all different cultures, who all have different beliefs and “truths,” as Pattanaik said in his TED talk. Being able to overlook the landscape of the hostels while reflecting on the self reminds me of  the author Blanton’s text, “Narrating Self and Other.” He states, “The reverberations between observer and observed, between self and world, allow the writer to celebrate the local while contemplating the universal”

Hostels allow you to get a more accurate glimpse of the city of the city you are visiting. In Rome, the guy in charge of checking in people at our hostel decided one night to cook all the backpackers a home cooked Italian meal. He invited his friends over and we all ate together and got a taste of what it would be like to be a local. If you were staying in a hotel, I doubt this situation would be likely to happen! It is those type of crazy, fun experiences that give you a glimpse into the true culture and lifestyle of those cities.

Second Backpacking Trip

For our second time backpacking throughout Europe, we mapped our travels by deciding to be sporadic and letting the cheapest ways to get somewhere decide where we go. The only thing we knew we wanted to do when we first began mapping our trip was having our final stop be Prague so we can stay and visit another friend I met through my student ambassador program. We booked the cheapest flight we could find; we flew into London and out of Prague. We then began the sporadic process of mapping our trip out. We decided to use the budget European airlines, Ryan Air and Wizz Air, to go everywhere. Our first trip taught us that flying can be one of the cheapest ways to travel around Europe. Trains can actually be the most expensive sometimes!

We pulled up the websites to these two airlines and began mapping out and deciding where we would go. We looked to see what were the cheapest places to fly to from London two days after we arrived; it turned out to be Seville, Spain. We decided we would spend a couple days there and then looked where the cheapest place from Seville was; it turned out to be Ibiza, Spain. From Ibiza we decided to go up to Brussels, Belgium then down to Budapest, Hungary and pass through Vienna, Austria before ending up in Prague. I highly recommend traveling and mapping your trips this way. You get to see cities you might never have traveled to otherwise. Take a chance and don’t make up your mind before mapping your trip out where you are going to go because you want to, try it our way and just map out your trip by wherever is the cheapest to travel to. Plus, the trip was a lot cheaper that way! We got one flight for 15 Euro each!!

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We had ZERO interest of every going to Brussels before this trip, but we ended up going there because it was one of the cheapest places to go to the way we planned out our trip this time. We ended up being there during a giant jazz festival. It was amazing. We would wonder around the city and stumble upon another giant concert venue. Here we are in the main Market Square. If we didn’t sporadically map out our trip like we did, we would have never gone to Brussels, and therefore never gotten to see dozens of world-famous musicians on a whim. Trust me, take a chance on traveling the way we did this trip! You won’t regret it!

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Plus, I now know Brussels has the most amazing waffles in the world after taking a chance and mapping my trip this way!

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We met these Australians through our hostel in Prague. Here we are at Lucerne club in Prague. This club is famous for only playing 90s pop bands like NSYNC and Britney Spears. We had a great time reliving our childhood. We still talk to them today!

Traveling writing is a map. Seager’s “Maps,” explains how maps have helped shape history; there is no telling that 100 years from now people won’t look back on what we wrote about it will affect history.

Study of a Human Society

Honestly, I never heard of the word “ethnography” before starting my Travel Writing Rhetoric class for my English Masters degree. I had to Google the meaning of the word, and according to dictionary.com it means, “The branch of anthropology that deals with the scientific description of individual human societies.” I would agree that SOME travel writing deals with ethnography. Yes, sometimes travel writing does deal with description of individual cultures; other times it is just a journal, for fun, or just because. We were assigned to read a section of Joan Pau Rubies’, “Travel Writing and Ethnography” for class. I found it difficult to understand. Essentially, the point of his work was to explain how much travel writing deals with ethnography, “European travelers, by recording their observations of other lands and peoples, became essential contributors to the growth of a new, empirically informed discourse about both man and nature.”  Here is another good quote from the section that explain ethnography and ethnology:

“Although the emergence of an academic discourse based on comparison, classification, and historical lineage called ethnology is a nineteenth-century phenomenon, in reality both ethnography and ethnology existed within the humanistic disciplines of early modern Europe in the primary forms of travel writing, cosmography, and history, which often informed specific debates about the capabilities and origins of the American Indians, the definition of ‘natural man,’ the influence of climate on national characteristics, or the existence of stages in the history of civilization. On the back of the growth of travel writing both ethnography and ethnology were, in fact, crucial to the Enlightenment Project of a world-historical science of mankind.”

I understand what Rubies is saying, but I don’t know if I necessarily agree with it completely. I think travel writing was inadvertently crucial to the Enlightenment Project, but that isn’t want it its initial purpose was. I think when historians reviewed history, travel writing became a form of ethnography, but its initial purposes were either for fun, journal, or for governmental purposes.

What is Travel Writing?

Travel Writing always seemed like a fun hobby to me. While traveling, I always write long, detailed emails home; others blogged; others used snail mail. I always viewed travel writing as a diary of sorts, where you can write down your experiences and for years to come you will never forget.

I have always been interested in people and discovering new things. One of my college majors was Psychology. I loved it. I loved learning about people and what makes us who we are. In one of my psychology classes, I took a cultural psychology class. We learned how different cultures view beauty. It is commonly believed that every region of the world has different ideas on what is beautiful.  For instance, people use the example of women in parts of Africa who use lip plates to show how each culture have different ideas of beauty.

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Yes, that is a cultural tradition of beauty. However, there are certain things that are universally thought of as beautiful. Symmetric faces are construed as more beautiful than asymmetric faces in all cultures. Clear skin is a universally thought of as beautiful. A square jaw for men and high-cheek bones for women.

Different cultures definitely have different perspectives on the same issue. That is what makes traveling wonderful; it gives you the chance to learn from these different cultures and see things from their point of view. There is no bigger lesson in the world and no better chance to learn. I think that is why this quote from Catherine Watson really stood out to me:

“No, I tell them, leaving home’s a cinch. It’s the staying, once you’ve found it, that takes courage.”

This is completely true; the easy part is going, the hard part is staying. It is always easier to go back to your comfort zone, but it is hard to stay somewhere completely different than you are used to. I know that is my issue. I have no problem leaving, and never really want to come back, but I always do. Why? I fully believe that part of me is scared; scared to take a full leap of faith and commit to staying and not returning back to my comfort zone. I always said I wanted to live abroad, but why haven’t I? I have traveled all over the world, but never done what I always wanted to do: Live abroad. I keep making excuses: I love my job, I want a couple more years experience before I take off so it is easy to come back and find a job, my husband could possibly transfer to Europe in a year or two so lets just wait until then, so on. I talk about this with my friends and they basically tell me to shutup! Ha! They explain that I have had the courage to go out there and explore the world in ways most never would. That might be why I have become the travel “expert” amongst my friends and family. Whenever they are thinking of going on a trip, they come to me and ask if I know the best way to get a travel deal there, a good place to stay, what to do, so on so forth. I love Runaway Jane’s, ” 8 Easy Ways to Save Money as you Travel (in Europe!) This advice is spot on. I am happy to say I have done every recommendation and they are all true. Anyone can travel, even those with the most frugal budgets! Here are some pics from two different backpacking trips with my now husband. They are of our hostels in London, England; Seville, Spain; Budapest, Hungary.

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Current travel writing is wonderful for those entertaining the idea of becoming a traveler. Anything anyone who need to know could be found on blogs, travel sites, and travel deal websites. Before I go on any trip I hop from blog to blog. I think there should be more information out there for the younger travel and how they can travel cheaply. I also don’t think there is enough information on the importance of traveling. I love all of Frommer’s information on Travel Writing. Frommer’s is always a great resource to look at before making a trip. I hope to focus on a bit of all of these things, while always looking at Frommer has to say.