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Part 1
Know Thyself

1) Why Travel

2) The First Lesson of Traveling Well

3) How to Travel: Traditional Approaches

4) Threading: A New Approach and Philosophy

5) The Walking Threader

6) Road to Discovery

3—How to Travel: Traditional Approaches

Immersion, Home Basing, and City-Hopping

"Stand at any destination on the globe and you are confronted with a limited array of options for activities and transportation. Transport yourself in a particular manner and you have a unique menu of destinations, each with their particular slate of activity options. Plan to engage in a specific activity and you must select from certain destinations that you can transport yourself to in limited ways. A travel approach is a framework that enables activities by utilizing transport options to link destinations."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Three Classic Approaches

It seems so simple -- just buy a pack, tickets, guidebook and go. But how? Where will you place yourself and for how long? What line will your footsteps trace across the globe?

The approach question is more important than most travelers realize. it's all too easy to simply adopt a tried and true formula -- the standard rail-and-hostel-pass Euro-trip for example. But if you've given thought to your personal goals and dreams, you might find that no one classic approach will meet your needs. You'll want to mix and match -- or to try something altogether different.

"Tie yourself to any one approach—as many do—and you may miss out on important parts of the experience you desire. By regarding the traditional approaches as lesser elements in a larger travel scheme, you open yourself to the big picture. They become optional dimensions that you might build into a long-range plan or select on site, in the moment."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Obviously, there really aren't any rules about what qualifies as a travel approach and what doesn't. Even so, a brief look at the following trio will help to introduce the possibilities:


"Nothing could be simpler than traveling to a place and staying there—that’s immersion. Spend a summer attending an indigenous language school in Antigua; join a collegiate research project that parks you in a Madagascar forest reserve for two months; rent a room in Prague and play music on the Charles bridge for coins in the evening. Pick your zone of enchantment and see it from top to bottom."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Immersion should have a place in all journeys. There's certainly no way to see below the surface unless you spend a fair amount of time in a given locale.

On the other hand, long stays can bring out the boring as well as the fascinating. Immersing travelers save money, relax, and get a deeper look, but they may also fall into a 'holding pattern' -- perhaps developing a less-than-inspiring routine, going from cafe to beach to pub to bed, day after day.

If your goals and desires call for immersion, then by all means, intensify your experience by engaging a destination for an extended period. But...

"The immersing traveler also gives up the rewards of traveling onward. The questions of what's over the next hill or around the next bend remain unanswered. If you have an explorer's heart, your immersions will be short."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Home Basing

When you pick a hostel for a two-week stay and spend your time enjoying day trips and excursions into the surrounding region, you're 'home basing'. It's a great way to enjoy the benefits of immersion while still staying on the move. It's a good approach for experiencing a wider area.

"The big advantage of thinking with home-base logic is that destination/activity possibilities are seen to exist in a friendly little cloud around your base. Like a curious spider, you perch at the center of a web of travel possibilities, selecting from the array of tasty morsels captured by the silken strings of transport routes. If it's desirable to “fan out” over a period of days to take in the good stuff that surrounds a spot, having a home base might be just the thing."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Of course, many areas don't lend themselves to a home base approach -- particularly more remote areas and those with limited public transit infrastructures. You may also spend a lot of time and extra money covering the same ground twice, since round-trip train or bus runs will link you to your destination-of-the-day.

City Hopping

"The Euro-classic! With Eurail pass and Let's Go guidebooks in hand, you see Europe from stem to stern in a couple of months. Or make it a world classic. For $2500, you can get a twenty-destination plane ticket and bounce from airport to airport around the globe!"
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

"Bounce" might be the key word here -- but you'll get coverage! In a way, it is utterly amazing how many places you can go for very little money. If you've got energy to burn, you can sample the highlights of a great destination in just a few days, then hop to the next item on your sightseeing checklist. You'll see plenty, and you can see it in a hurry. ...On the other hand...

"...seeing things and getting a feel for things are quite different. Seeing peasants in Chad may not give you a feel for the subsistence agriculture life. Watching monks at a ceremony may not result in a feeling for the Buddhist mind. Often I am struck by the power of memories that grow into empathy or depth of feeling for a culture, religion, ecosystem, or human condition. On the other hand, I’m impressed by the paleness—the postcard quality—of memories that lack such feeling. If you want depth, you have to go deep."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

The biggest mistake travelers make is in seeing too much at the cost of seeing nothing at all. I give the subject a good look in several parts of the book. Here, I'll just reiterate Lesson 1: You Can't See It All. The real highlights of a journey have nothing to do with the guidebook highlights you mark off on your checklist. They come in rare moments when you're open to experiences that you don't expect, and they leave you with stories to tell or remember.

Mix It Up

So what's the lesson here? These traditional approaches should really serve as dimensions or options in a larger approach to travel -- one that emerges directly from you, your style, and your personal hopes and goals. Mix it up. Respond to impulse and inspiration. Don't get locked into canned formulas or domineering itineraries. Hop three cities on your way to a town you want to immerse in for awhile, then bop on over to a good home base for a regional lookabout.

Immersion, Home Basing, City Hopping:

"You'll find all three travel approaches to be useful at one time or another. Know them, use them. Mix them up. ... Tie yourself to any one travel approach—as many do—and you risk missing out on important parts of the experience you desire. By regarding all the three traditional approaches as lesser elements in a larger travel scheme, you open yourself to the big picture."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

To knit them together, use the best of all travel approaches: Threading. Read more in the next chapter, or in The World Awaits.