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Travel beyond your bucket list

August 5, 2010

When I was young I wanted to grow up to become a writer, later on that famous soccer player. And what about astronaut, yeah why not? At a certain point in time I definitely wanted to become a discoverer!

OK, I ended up as a marketing manager (and happy with that!), but in some ways I actually did become a discoverer. When I look back at my travels and especially the time I lived in Japan, these were times where I did my best to discover the real country and its culture.

But in general, during most of our travels, are we really discovering? Or are we traveling a country without noticing it? Let me try to unravel how travel can (and should) be a real discovery.

Many travel tips on the internet are about great sightseeing spots. It goes without saying that these sites are high on each one’s priority list. I say thanks every day for having been so lucky to travel and see so many of the well-known highlights like the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, the Golden Temple in Kyoto, Japan, The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, and the statue of Christ (Corcovado) in Rio de Janeiro.

Visiting these places were like checking my bucket list. Of course they made a lot of impact on me, no doubt about that. Sometimes the way to get there added even more pleasure to the experience.

But being a discoverer means a lot more than just visiting these places. Discovering is about being embraced by local life and culture. It is not where you travel to, it is how you travel. It is how you watch people around you. It is about how you behave, how interested you are to learn.

So my travel tip today is not about a must-see spot (for that you can check some other posts on this blog), but the tip is about looking at your travel destination in a different way.

One example: next time you travel, try to make 5 pictures of how local people earn their money. Check out mine, I think it’s a nice collection. These pictures show me the real country and make me remember my travel as much as the Golden Temple in Kyoto did.

Selling lunch in Bali

Mobile lunch in Bali

Selling brooms

Selling brooms in Bangkok

Washing the dishes

Washing the dishes on the streets of Bangkok

Begging for money

Begging for money in Morocco


Daily fishing in Essaouira, Morocco

Selling fruit

Selling fruits in Hanoi, Vietnam

Collecting carton

Collecting carton in Ho Chi Minh City

Transporting pipes

Delivering plastic pipes in Vietnam


From → Observations

  1. Hello Emiel, what a nice post! I am so happy you are writing again – even if Bali is not the central theme (yet! ;))!
    I LOVE observing people and cultures and anything Japanese- we traveled to Japan 4 times on business mixed with vacation and I marveled at the lifestyle of the Japanese each time. And it’s important to go off the beaten path once in a while!
    Thanks for sharing all this, my dear traveling buddy!!

    • Dear Farnoosh,
      Thanks so much, you are always a great supporter and inspirator for me!
      As we experienced again in Bali, you indeed have to take time to get off the beaten track while you travel. Just sit and watch how life happens around you.

      Although long ago and all my pictures are analog, I should write about my Japan experiences…

      Thank you!

      • Japan is one of my favorite and top destinations – I have been 4 times and can’t wait to go back. I should write about mine more too…..Maybe we can schedule to have a similar topic (with unique experience) coming out at the same time?!

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