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Hitchhikers Guide

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to traveling the world

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”
– G.K. Chesterton

When people ask me about traveling, I am always amazed how many want to hitch a ride and travel like I do. Next to the unlimited enthusiasm of making travel plans, also lots of questions are raised about how and where to travel: destinations, how to travel with kids, safety and so on.

It’s like Life itself: there will always be more questions than answers.

Could it be possible for me to write a Guide that provides the answers to all travel questions? An ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to Traveling the World?

Traveling the world

Well, sorry, but writing such a Guide is just as useless as trying to explain cricket to a die-hard soccer fan and convince him that one century is quite an achievement and not only a period of 100 years.

I have read lots of (travel) guides in my life. More and more these guides remained unread. In my opinion they deserve a better life, for example to support a crooked table leg.

But the question remains: if the ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to traveling the world would be written, would it then solve all travel problems and answer all travel questions?

Well, the ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide would most probably describe fabulous destinations: all places you so badly want to visit. What it cannot describe however is the real secret about travel. If you really want to hitchhike to the far ends of our world (and maybe beyond), the answer lies in opening your eyes and ears. Not just to wake up, but to start seeing what others can’t see. Yes, invisibility is the answer to all things travel. Confused?

You don’t have to have be clairvoyant or something (although it would be great to predict results of important cricket games and become filthy rich). It’s just that some travelers see it and some don’t. Some for example see something special in an old man looking for food in trash bins in Milan….  You can teach yourself how to enter all these mini-universes happening all around you. Let’s check out how you can do that.

Traveling the world

Traveling the world: the Opportunity Factor

How can you make the most out of your travels? The answer to all things travel (seeing what other’s don’t) ignites a new power. This power I have called the Opportunity Factor.

When you see what other’s don’t, you will always discover something new. For example: you can just see a market with meat and vegetables, or see more opportunities and start talking to the lady behind the market stall and ask how she prepares her favorite meal. Another example: you can see just a regular Indian boy….or you can start a conversation and learn about how this student in architecture wants to change the life of people in India.

In this new travel order there is no such thing as a missed opportunity anymore. There is always something interesting to be found, as long as you see it.

A missed opportunity is nothing more than looking back. It’s history. As we cannot time-warp ourselves back to try and seize the missed opportunity in a second attempt, we need to embrace the Opportunity Factor. If you have just missed a religious festival because you took a cab to a wrong part of town…bummer. But it doesn’t matter anymore. You can sit down and cry your eyes out, or let the Opportunity Factor do it’s work. There is a thin line between what’s missed and what is available to discover. There is great stuff everywhere and great people to meet. Talk to that person who has attended the festival and enjoy his enthusiasm. Go the festival venue and ask if you can help clean the place!! Why not?!

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”
– G.K. Chesterton

Traveling the world

A real Hitchhiker will not cry when he or she missed something. The Opportunity Factor* will immediately provide new opportunities. And from now on you will see them where others still won’t. Others will still wonder when the ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to traveling the world will be written….but it won’t.

* When you travel in a strange country the Opportunity Factor is actually far bigger compared to your life back home. This has not been proven scientifically, but the mere fact that there is so much more to discover increases the Factor by at least 75%. [smiley]

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capturinglavita September 21, 2013 - 21:17

That opportunity factor is so real. I sometimes go out just looking for open doors to walk through while traveling. Like Monique said, everyone likes to travel in different ways- but if you are looking for a deeper experience, you have got to open yourself up to it.

Emiel van den Boomen September 22, 2013 - 22:08

Thank you Laurel! Many times I force myself to not walk to quickly from one highlight to another, but just slow down and look around….like your search for open doors; they are kind of a window into another world.

monique February 18, 2013 - 16:54

lovely post! “some see it and some won’t” – in my experience, the way you travel is linked to your personality type… Some of my closest friends would never travel in the way you and I do, they just wouldn’t be comfortable and enjoy it as much as I try to convince them otherwise.

Emiel van den Boomen February 18, 2013 - 22:11

I can relate to that Monique. What I try to do here on this blog is to crush some of the travel fears that many have. To lose control or to travel without any fixed plans (especially if you travel with kids) is scary to some, but could actually be a great way to improve the travel experience.

monique February 18, 2013 - 22:21

I agree!

Nomadic Samuel February 18, 2013 - 11:35

Thank you so much for the mention! I love your concept of ‘Opportunity Factor’
When I’m traveling I often try to remind myself of that.

Emiel van den Boomen February 18, 2013 - 22:04

Thanks Samuel. Even today we threw away our itinerary ideas and just walked randomly through the city…(we are now in Barcelona)

Melanie Murrish February 18, 2013 - 10:02

Thanks for this; I constantly people watch and sit in cafes just soaking up the atmosphere. I find mixing with the locals even easier now we have kids. One of our best experiences was when we planned a trip to Vesuvius and got off at the “wrong”stop; we ended up in a very “rough” area of Naples, met some of the kindest people ever and had the best pizza ever for next to nothing! We visited Vesuvius another time, views were great but the memories were better when we got lost!

Emiel van den Boomen February 18, 2013 - 22:02

Great story Melanie. So getting lost creates more travel opportunities than people might think….maybe we should be less afraid of getting lost!

Jenna Francisco February 17, 2013 - 16:31

Very true. Having the right attitude and seeing everything as an opportunity is key to getting the most out of travels. Certainly your love of connecting with locals opens lots of travel opportunities, too.

Emiel van den Boomen February 18, 2013 - 21:57

Thanks Jenna. I love your series on Quality Travel, which I would love to support with this post (among more to come 🙂


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