Making Memories: Creating Those Elusive Authentic Experiences
Get Lost! Choose to get lost. Obviously not if you have somewhere to be, but when you have the time get out there and just wander, you will likely be rewarded with the kind of experiences you will remember forever. Go out and just follow your intuition about which twist or turn to take. If a street looks interesting, follow your gut and go down it. If something sounds or smells intriguing, check it out. If a person catches your attention, engage them. Without a set destination or knowledge of an area, everything you encounter is a fresh discovery. The potential for real, unique moments increases exponentially when you carve out time and intentionally get lost. Your holiday, or vacation, or trip, or even weekend transforms from being a virtual checklist into an adventure and you evolve from being a tourist into becoming a traveller.
When I try to put my finger on why I enjoy something that provokes anxiety in many others (getting lost), I think it comes from my childhood. When my sisters and I complained of boredom, my mom would always say, “Let’s go on an adventure”. In retrospect, we were quite poor and therefore this meant: let’s create our own fun without spending any money. As in, let’s go for a drive, visit a park or take a walk in the woods. These events seem altogether mundane, however, with a little enthusiasm she somehow made it feel like we were headed on a once in a lifetime Safari. I have carried this ideology forward with my own children. We have embarked on many simple adventures like taking the red wagon to the local park when they were small, all the way to moving halfway around the world.
My family was still sleeping when I tiptoed out of our over-water bungalow on the shores of Myanmar's Inle Lake. Of course I left them a note, 'went out to explore, be back for breakfast'. I followed the winding wooden path away from the lake, over the misty rice paddies and toward the brilliant morning sun rising over the nearby mountains. I turned right once I arrived at the narrow country road. I followed it around a bend and up a gradual rise. The occasional motorbike buzzed by. Leafy branches squeezed the road from both sides threatening to reclaim the road as part of the neighboring jungle. The air was cool, fresh and wet. After about 15 minutes the mysterious sounds in the underbrush gave way to what sounded like singing or chanting. I was curious and followed the road up hill to the source of the sound, which ended up to be a buddhist temple. Upon peeking my head into an open air hall to see what was going on, several smiling children came out to greet me. They took me by the hand and brought me inside where I was greeted with warm smiles and invited to sit in a circle with the adults. Between my limited spoken Burmese and their little bit of English, we were able to connect. They offered me a simple breakfast, instructed me on how to join their prayer/meditation and basically treated me as an honored guest. When I was ready to return to my family, a kind old man even gave me a ride down the hill on the back of his motorbike. This ended up being one of my favorite memories of the trip. I did not pay for it, nor was it written in any guide book. It happened simply because I wandered with an open mind and heart.
By simply looking at each outing as an adventure, we open ourselves to potential discoveries; we open our heart to a place. We can make discoveries about culture and get the genuine feel of a place in a way we would otherwise miss out on. This is the antithesis of the kind of package travel experiences people often pay a great deal of money for. It seems that when we're not looking for something specific, we see more. Perhaps more importantly, we invite the possibility of discovering something about ourselves.