When is travel advice helpful? Image by Kayti Burt.
If someone had one week to live, where would you tell them to travel? My friend launched this query at me over dinner last week. My first thought? I hate this question.
A week later, I’m still thinking about why.
Advice Needs Context
Don’t get me wrong: I love giving travel advice. Obviously. But I take the responsibility extremely seriously. And, for me, offering advice to someone I know nothing about is worth practically nothing.
Advice needs context. It is as much about the advisee as the advisor.
For example, I choose to write about traveling as an introvert because many travel blogs assume a young, backpacking readership that prioritizes making lots of friends, attending loud clubs, and packing days with sight-seeing.
Writing as an introverted traveler gives me, The Blogger, and you, The Reader, context. We’re both here because we want to share a connection – either as introverted female travelers or some deconstruction of the many identities that inform my writing.
Travel Is Chaotic
Travel doesn’t happen in a vacuum. (Unless you’re reading this in a future where vactrains have graduated from theory to reality, in which case: Awesome.) Nor should it.
It’s a crazy, chaotic, unpredictable experience that is different for everyone. That’s part of its charm, and the reason why we go out to see the world for ourselves rather than simply reading about it on the Internet.
The unpredictability of travel: This gang of segway tourists came out of nowhere! Image by Kayti Burt.
That’s also why it’s so hard to give good travel advice. And, if you are a traveler, you probably have friends and family members constantly asking for your advice about places you’ve visited.
Here’s what I think about when I give travel advice…
Theory of Travel
The way I see it, any one travel experience is a convergence of five elements. These five elements are why travel advice can be a bit of a crapshoot. (I say this as a travel blogger who sometimes gets lazy and forgets this complexity.)
Too few people take into account these variables that are unable to be pinned down.
This is perhaps the most predictable element, but it is still fluid and abstract. A city or town or patch of land is always changing, always being changed.
Time can have a certain cycle to it, but no two moments are ever the same.
Time: One of my five elements of travel. Image by Kayti Burt.
This element is the least tangible; a reaction of the infinite, tiny variables that compose any one moment of our lives. Circumstance is weather and dropped passports, an abscessed tooth and travel friends.
Identity is how I’ve chosen to define this column. I write as a traveler, an introvert, a woman. But, of course, my identity doesn’t end there. My infinite other identities inform my writing and advice in both conscious and unconscious ways.
Purpose can be specific or abstract and is deeply entwined with our identities. Why do you travel? Are you a student, a tourist, an expat? How do you hope to be changed by your trip?
The best travel advice: Explore this crazy world for yourself. Image by Kayti Burt.
Like blogging, advice isn’t a proclamation. It’s a conversation.
So, next time someone asks you for travel advice, consider the above. Who knows? You might learn something from the conversation, too.