A long time ago, on my first long trip to Europe, I found myself staying in the youth hostel in Florence. At the end of an afternoon during that time of day when everyone would take a break from their wanderings and check back in, clean up, and get ready to head back into town for the evening meal and passeggiata, during all that I would find people gathered in the courtyard, sharing their travel stories – travels past, present, and potential future.
I loved sharing my stories and adventures. I loved hearing the stories of others. One afternoon I shared some fantastic story, I’m not sure which one, maybe the one about when I was traveling through France with a group of Congolese musicians and dancers, and I noticed that one woman was looking a little forlorn and sad. I turned to the woman next to me and asked her if she knew what was wrong with her and she said to me, and I won’t quote it because it was a long time ago, but this is what she said – not everyone has a good time when they travel and your story made her feel like her travels aren’t good enough.
And here I thought it was all about one-up-manship.
That moment taught me something – about being observant and sensitive to others.
Ever since then I’ve been really sensitive about bragging. Yes, maybe I do like myself a little too much, but I work very hard at making sure that I am either teaching something or sharing some deeper meaning of my life, something inspirational rather than a hey look at me I’m so self absorbed tidbit.
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Down time is not something that I enjoy, or something that I do well. I like being in constant motion and if I can’t be in constant physical motion, I like to at least be in constant mental motion. That’s just how I live life.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve been out of the San Francisco Bay Area – which, admittedly is a pretty groovy place to be stuck if one is looking at life as being stuck somewhere. Many factors have led to my inability to travel, the primary one being that I haven’t had a budget to travel.
To assuage this feeling of self-inflicted depravity, I keep up with Other’s travels on twitter and facebook, checking out where they’ve been, what they’ve been up to. As time has gone on, I find it appalling at how much of what is considered to be travel “writing” – yes there is an argument that travel blogging is not writing, but for the sake of this post, let’s just leave it – is in fact just travel bragging. It’s nauseating. Twitter and facebook are full of links to posts that are all about look at me.
I find that I can now put myself into the shoes of the woman who was sitting in that group in Florence that day, almost thirty years ago. I can’t tell you her name, it’s long forgotten, and I can’t tell you what she looked like, as those details are long forgotten too, but I can tell you how she felt.
And I hope I never tell a story that way again. Go deeper, people. Savor the experience and tell us what it feels like inside. Tell us how the experience changed you. It’s not enough to just tell us that you went ziplining through a jungle canopy. Tell us about the colors, the sounds, the wonder of feeling like you are flying. Consider being something other than a bore.
The art of travel bragging is not an art that anyone should strive to master.