Monday, 28 July 2014

First steps

“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

I’m the sort of person whose idea of travelling is to blend in with the locals, eat where they eat, live life at their pace, learn their language (haha, try, anyway)… but, of course, that is in an ideal situation. Money, time, family, these are just some of the factors making the ideal way not so ideal. So, more often than not, it’s a case of several days or several weeks, at best, in one place, and off I go.

Thanks to digital photography, some of the memories from an experience can be etched on bits and bytes and preserved. Photography was once a hobby, but one I’d given up because of cumbersomeness and expenses. Now, it’s become a passion once again; thanks to technological advances, I no longer need to spend money on film and developing, and I can do my own “processing” without the need of specialised equipment and knowledge.

Cuesta de Gomerez, Granada

Because of my concept of travelling, I often visit a place only with a rough idea of what to expect and a rougher idea of things I would like to do. Although this modus operandi has its merits,  it often means that I "lose out" on things I could have experienced otherwise because, let's face it, it isn't an efficient form of travelling, especially if it's a trip lasting only several days. 

I recently did a trip where, for the first time, I had a smartphone. Illuminating! OK, I still got lost and I still end up in bad restaurants, but the risks can be minimised by whipping out the tech, asking the GPS to redirect or calling up a famous website and read up on readers’ recent comments on places to eat “near you”. Naturally, it beats the purpose of travelling if you over-depend on the digital resources available, but, at the same time, if they can help you get more out of less, why not? Besides, one can blend in with the environment far easier with an earbud pushed in one's ear than a map in one's hands!

So, as luck would have it, I’m setting out on a 2-week trip over Northern Spain, which will see me roam from the Basque country through to Galician territory, and what started as a skeleton plan quickly became a full-blown detailed itinerary.

A truly digital trip. Yeah.

The original destination was to be Asturias. Initial browsing quickly pointed out that flights were just too expensive. The cheapest option gradually became clear. Arrival in Bilbao, departure from A Coruña. Decision was also made to rent a car at some point to allow us to get to A Coruña while, at the same time, to get to know the "Northern territories" a little better.

It also helped that I had time on my hands. Not always the case; the time I mean. So, one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was working on a detailed itinerary: getting from one point to another, which buses to take, or perhaps a tram, a train, maybe a taxi, or on foot, estimated times and mileage, routes to take, things to see, places to eat, etc.

Of course, I know that no matter how detailed it is, it is not a package tour, it is not a guided tour. I remain free to change my mind or to be dictated by circumstances and by chance discoveries. What this itinerary does is to provide me with a chance to maximise my opportunities, to be in places where I might not have otherwise been, taste dishes I might not have tasted, save time and/or money when, on other occasions, I might have taken the wrong turning or made an inappropriate decision.

A digital beginning leads to a digital product.

I remember when I was backpacking through Southeast Asia many moons ago, I did it without a camera, but I kept cheap notebooks as diaries. I regret not having the visual memories, but there wasn’t much I could do about that. The diaries are fine - they helped me at that time, but I hardly look at them now because it’s difficult to find specific information, or because I can't be bothered to go look for them, hidden somewhere among my other belongings.

Writing isn't meant to be locked up.

So, why not a blog?

It will fuel my two passions - photography and writing, won't it? And it may help others. Perhaps.

So, a blog is born. Another. Yes. :D

I hope you'll hop on board and join in my journeys, revel in my discoveries, be it on a trip to the corner store or to a neighbouring country.