Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Travel Tip Tuesdays: The Dangers of Comparing

Tip for the day: When you travel, be aware of what you’re comparing, and pause to consider.

Worlds all their own: Montara, California and Weldon Springs, Missouri
Humans love to compare things— it’s part of the way we relate to the world. That guy reminds me of a kid I knew in high school, this landscape looks like eastern France, and alligator meat “tastes like chicken” (although I think it tastes more like fish). Our language is full of metaphors and similes, and our brains love to draw connections between our present experience and things from the past.

This part of the brain is exercised a lot when you travel. For instance:

“That’s not a river, that’s a drainage ditch!” 

“Those mountains aren’t as cool as the ones at home.”

“This downtown is like my home city, except lame.”

“In America, we serve our beer cold!”

I’ve been guilty of this many times (see: the river example). You have a set of paradigms that you’ve grown up with. People who live near the Mississippi River think anything smaller is a creek. People from the Sierra Nevadas think any mountain that isn’t snow-capped is a hill. A St. Louisan is happy about that 90-degree day in midsummer, when someone from further north might suffer heatstroke. 

While there’s nothing wrong with comparing, per se, it’s important when you’re traveling to avoid letting your familiars and favorites get in the way of something new. Nothing kills a new environment faster than turning up your nose at it because it’s not like the places you’ve been before. 

Many travel enthusiasts scoff at the idea of traveling in Europe because they’ve been there before, and refuse to see the wonder that continent has to offer. Some people never take the time to see the beauty of Kansas or New Mexico or the Netherlands because those places aren’t as impressive as Colorado or Switzerland. My beloved home state of Missouri is overlooked and criticized because it’s not as good as Oregon/Florida/California/etc., and the people who feel that way don’t take the time to see the details that make the Midwest wonderful. When I was in Europe, I focused on treasuring each church I visited— although none were as incredible as St. Lorenzkirche, each had beauty to offer that I would have missed if I had compared them the other churches I had seen.

In the end, comparing places, people and things is inevitable. Just try to be aware of what you’re doing, and don’t let yourself become jaded. Every place in the world has beauty and wonder in it— sometimes you just have to put aside your comparisons and look.


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