Travel and the naked Emperor

Luxury accommodation

Do you recall the children’s tale of the emperor’s new clothes…

It goes a little like this…the kingdom were assembled to admire their Emperor and his fetching new outfit.  His fetching outfit (and I don’t really recall why ..) was nothing.  Yes, he was naked.   Now,  everyone in the kingdom could see this, but felt that to speak up they would stand out or look stupid.  So they praised the Emperor and his wonderful clothing, all the time knowing that the reality was quite a different picture.

I often wonder why the life-journey we undertake in order to travel remains uncelebrated…

Why the discount airbnb or hostel in the dodgy area is not worth at least acknowledging?   Why we think pouty portraits in front of trophy landmarks are worth collecting, when surely the treasures are our victory over a million obstacles to actually get there, and the knowledge and empathy we acquire when we take ourselves out of our everyday lives.

Working 16 hour days to save the money for your airfare, surviving a 16 bed dorm with no windows that opened and bunks that would comfortably fit a 5 year old with scoliosis.    The debacle of the shared kitchen (no its not shared, not really, get-out-of-my-kitchen), the shared bathroom where one member of the Russian family in the other room was always occupying.  The broken bed base lurking under a perfectly made bed, the emergency light that came on (and stayed on all night).   These are the things we need to celebrate.. Because these are the stories you will tell, the ones you will remember the most.

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When the plane/train/bus was cancelled, when it left from somewhere you couldn’t find, without you.  When your bag got stolen, when there was no water for a shower, when there was no water to drink. When you were at the right airbnb, but no one was there…and you had no phone battery, when the atm swallowed your card.   When you had no local currency and nowhere to get any.   When you were sick and had no idea what to do.

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These are your personal everests, the things you overcame or endured to travel.   Let’s celebrate them.

Let’s stop buying into the myth of glamorous, entitled people draped over stuff because, let’s face it, these folk are a microcosm of the population of travellers.  Most of us aren’t trying to be influencers, we’re just in love with the idea of seeing the world and its people.  Most of us worked hard, and paid for our trip and it might not be five star, but that is ok, in fact… its much better.

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Is it too late to have a gap year in your late 50s? To take back some time from our day to day working life to travel - unplanned, unescorted, unfettered? To take that leap? It was a defining year - liberating, challenging, humbling, scary. It was many things, but it wasn't a holiday.

3 thoughts on “Travel and the naked Emperor

  1. Here here! This is bringing back memories of what I did to make it to Venice.. walking in the rain, getting drenched by a passing truck that rammed through a puddle, arriving at a campsite that was sold out, then spending a few hours at the washer/dryer instead of soaking in the city, etc. Ah, those were the days 🙂

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