Traveling in a different way

By Paulo Coelho

When I was very young I discovered that, for me, a journey is the best way to learn. I still have this pilgrim’s soul to this day, and have decided to relate some of the lessons I have learned, in the hopes that they will be useful to other like-minded pilgrims.

1] Avoid museums. This advice may seem absurd, but let us reflect a little together: if you are in a foreign city, isn’t it far more interesting to seek out the present, than the past? Usually, people feel obliged to go to museums, because ever since they were small they have been told that traveling is a search for this type of culture. Of course museums are important, but they require time and objectivity – you need to know what it is you want to see there, otherwise you will come away with the impression that you saw several things which are fundamental to your life, but cannot remember what they were.

2] Frequent bars. Unlike museums, this is where the life of the city can be found. Bars are not discotheques, but places where the people gather to have a drink, pass the time, and are always willing to chat. Buy a newspaper and observe the bustle of people coming and going. If someone speaks to you, strike up a conversation, however banal: one cannot judge the beauty of a path merely by looking at its entrance.

3] Be open and forward. The best tourist guide is someone who lives there, knows everything, but doesn’t work at a travel agency. Go out into the street, choose someone you wish to speak to, and ask him or her for directions (where is such-and-such a cathedral? Where is the post office?) If this bears no fruit, try someone else – I guarantee that in the end you will find excellent company.

4] Try and travel alone, or – if you are married – with your spouse. It will be harder work, no one will be looking after you, but this is the only way of truly leaving your country. Group travel is just a disguised way of pretending to go abroad, where you speak your own language, obey the leader of the pack, and concern yourself more with the internal gossip of the group than with the place you are visiting.

5] Don’t compare. Don’t compare anything – not prices, nor cleanliness, nor quality of life, nor means of transport, nothing! You are not traveling in order to prove you live better than others – your search, in fact, is to find out how others live, what they have to teach, how they view reality and the extraordinary things in life.

6] Understand that everyone understands you. Even if you don’t speak the language, don’t be afraid: I have been in many places in which there was no way of communicating with words, and I always found support, guidance, important suggestions, even girlfriends. Some people think that if you travel alone, you will go out into the street and be lost forever. All you need is the hotel card in your pocket, and – should you find yourself in extreme circumstances – take a taxi and show it to the driver.

7] Don’t buy much. Spend your money on things which you won’t have to carry: good theater, restaurants, walks. Nowadays, with the global market and the Internet, you can have everything you want without having to pay for excess baggage.

8] Don’t try and see the world in a month. It is better to stay in one city for four or five days, that visit five cities in a week. A city is like a capricious woman, who needs time to be seduced and reveal herself completely.

9] A journey is an adventure. Henry Miller said that it is far more important to discover a church no one has heard of, than go to Rome and feel obliged to visit the Sistine Chapel, with two hundred thousand tourists shouting all around you. Go to the Sistine Chapel, but also get lost in the streets, wander down alleyways, feel free to look for something, without knowing what it is. I swear you will find it and that it will change your life.

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Comments

  1. SARAVANAN says:

    life is beautiful when we travel…

    1. life is beautiful! but travelling makes it more interesting.

  2. Adriana says:

    Si, tal cual, mi esposo y yo, cargamos combustible, una sartén, la pava, el mate y algunos pesos, ah! y a los niños, (tres) y salimos por las rutas de nuestra argentina… aprendemos todos, sobre todo a tolerarnos, a comprendernos y a divertirnos… nuestro próximo viajes es mañana, recorreremos 1100 km para conocer el mar! Besos. Adriana.

  3. Nice article. when I was young, I have been to several cities in my country. I like travelling,it can make many friends,learn from people. so if possible, I wanna go US or Germany.

  4. Cezara says:

    I love traveling. Even though I am quite young (17) I’ve been in several countries because of worksops, projects or scholarships and I can say that only twice I did what you recommended above.
    The result? If someone asked me what travel did I like the most, I tell him that these two journeys were the best of my life – because I did unconsciously what you just wrote (well, except the “don’t buy much” advice, I admit- feminity’s weakness).
    I would suggest the 10th issue: take random photos. Photos of strangers, places, small tags, streets etc. Photos will best bring in the future the memories – the way to keep in touch with what you experienced, I think.

    Cheers,
    A cherful traveler

  5. soha says:

    If God wills, i will be travelling to Germany this summer. i am not going alone but i will take these pieced of advice into consideration.
    thnak you Paulo Coelho

  6. Ventri Silaban says:

    I always want to be traveler. The real one. As the idea that Paulo wrote in this article: find the LIVE within every city. I, once, travel by myself, impulsively, and found that it somehow more interesting to sit down by the park near the main street of the city and see how people pass their night with their beloved or friends.. .. It simply amazing..

  7. Samantha Barlow says:

    I just love his advice,his whole way of being,so that even with travel,I am inspired by his words and suddenly see things differently.I just realised by reading the above how completely shut down my mind is and how easily I am led by the written word.Or is it just that sometimes the truth in a piece of writing,even something as obvious as travel tips really resonates with me? Loved this and suddenly made me very eager to do my own thing and not follow the herd….even though I just realised how much I am a part of the collective and not a free thinker at all…hahaha.

  8. Roline says:

    About the “lost”/ unknown church/chappel; I totally agree that the place of worship not known to crowds, will even let the non-believer connect with his soul. I’ve been to the Sistine chapel and appart from being very rushed is had no sacred energy for me. All was lost in the hanging humm and loud speakers telling all to be quiet. it’s a pity that ‘tourist philosophy’ dilutes an experience that could be life changing or atleast let you connect again.

    It makes sense that you go look for your angels in the desert. True religion requires no distractions.

    Roline (South Africa)

  9. Cristina says:

    Sr. Paulo,

    Estoy completamente de acuerdo con su visión del viaje, mi compañera Belinda y yo, hemos estado viajando 5 meses en latino america, hemos tenido la suerte de conocer de entre otras ciudades la suya (Rio de Janeiro) y tenemos la suerte de conocer sitios espectaculares gracias a la fabulosa gente que nos hemos encontrado en el camino.

    La guía de viaje estaba en nuestras manos, pero aunque previamente mirabamos que podíamos visitar, nos hemos dejado guiar por las señales en nuestro camino y visitado lugares que quizas no estaban remarcados y que han resultado ofrecernos experiencias inolvidables.

    Me encanta leer sus libros, pues me identifico mucho en ellos, seguramente como le ocurrirá a muchos de sus lectores.

    Muchas gracias por las palabras con las que nos llena esos momentos de lectura, gracias por sus libros.

    Para bem pra voçe!
    beijos,
    Cristina