Chris Kelly, a YPT employee I met on my tour to North Korea confessed to me upon hearing that I was from Montréal that he had visited it but had a poor time there. Appreciating much his honesty – you seldom criticize one’s home in their face – I asked him the obvious “why?”. His answer was simple: altough he had heard that Montréal was a must-see in eastern North-America, he just did not manage to meet interesting people. My reply was that I understood perfectly his dissatisfaction with his experience there.
That fact had dawned on me very early when I started backpacking: it’s not the sights you care much about, they simply provide a background tapestry to your travels, it’s the experiences you go after. Other people as it turns out are the most effective vectors towards memorable moments, be it in the form of a passionate discussion about one’s respective adventures, a mad party, some locals willing to show you around their hometown or simply someone to share your day with, or if you’re even luckier, part of your journey with, making friends and engaging in human contact is a crucial part of a sucessful trip. A prime tourist town can become the most boring place on earth if you’re left alone on the evening, endlessly refreshing your Facebook feed actually wondering if you should not just have stayed home.
Happiness only real when shared
— Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild
Or as one 40 something gay’s rights lobbyist lawyer I met back in 2008 in Seattle put it upon me questionning him what he was doing at an hostel when he could afford much better:
I hate hotels; they are boring; people just go there to sleep or have sex.