The easiest way to enjoy yourself while you’re on holiday is to have no expectations at all.
one of the reasons why i don’t really like travelling with other singaporeans is that they typically like planning trips down to the last detail and squeezing ten million museums in one day, seeing all the famous “must see” attractions of a place just because they are “must see”, waking up at 8am to make use of the breakfast provided by the hotel and then taking off immediately to make sure their time in a foreign place is well-spent and they get their money’s worth of their plane ticket.
what is up with that?
i’m not interested in famous attractions of a locale. i don’t care if it’s a circle of stones that 10 million people flock to a year, nor if it’s the longest bridge in the world.. i’m not interested in stones or bridges why would i travel all the way to another country just to see em? just because they’re famous? plenty of things are famous but it doesn’t immediately follow that they’re interesting.
Everyone should make a list of 10 things (no more’an that, how will you have the time?) they are interested in (experiencing while on holiday). obviously you shld be interested in those 10 things without the context of a holiday unless you’re one of those people whose interests change like the wind. think of it as 10 things you’d normally do regardless of location. 10 is a fairly accomplishable number for a week-long trip. and besides how can you truly appreciate something without a control factor? here’re mine.
1. a concert. (assuming the orchestra and the concert hall and the repertoire is decent, not just -any- concert) (although i would like to attend a concert in the royal albert hall once just to see how sucky the acoustics are and the huge fungal projections they have in the ceiling that make a bad sound-engineering job worse) (have you heard the joke about the only way an english composer can get his piece performed twice? by getting it performed in the royal albert hall because of its over-long reverb you literally get an echo.) i’ve been to concerts in nyc, boston, philadelphia, ithaca (obv.), birmingham, london, and amsterdam and they were always the best part of the trip.
2. a church service. just to see how churches all over the world operate, which is interesting to me because i’m a Christian. I want to see how universal my religion really is and how it’s the same everywhere, how God and His goodness is the same everywhere because He is an omnipresent God.
3. the bell tower. because i play the chimes, bell towers have begun to interest me. their construction, the number of bells they have, what kind of music they’ve got, the playing mechanism, etc.
4. the postal system. i’ve sent more mail from the UK in the past month than ming see has sent in her entire time here.
5. their fast food. as aforementioned, to check on globalisation. and the local food. gotta eat everywhere, might as well see what other people normally eat. you could say i’m interested in the hawker centre equivalents in different countries. i’ve tried profiteroles in sg, the US, the UK, and in the netherlands (called bossche bollen, or reuzen bol for the massive US-sized ones) and they were all v. yummy.
6. an art museum, if i like the artist in question. especially but not exclusive to dali, escher, matisse, klee, miro, kahlo, vermeer, kandinsky, chagall.
7. the commute. i like to know how people get around although no i did not bike in the dam nor in cam. :/ becks wasn’t back yet so i couldn’t borrow her purple bike.
8. the library. for obvious reasons. been everywhere but i gotta confess i haven’t seen anything to rival cornell’s libraries. most schools have just the one library (!!!) (how do the students get by!), and when i’m looking for scores, the record puts things like “JB Morrell library” and i keep asking annoying questions like “Is this the correct library? Are you sure it’s in this library?” and they’ll go exasperatedly “WE ONLY HAVE ONE LAH.” although i’m quite interested in cambridge’s fiction section which operates on faith, i.e. you borrow books with no magnetic strips/door buzzers and put them back when you’re done, books are accumulated by donation and you can hold on to them for as long as you want (forever for some people >.>).
9. the market. supermarkets, flea markets, street markets, the kind of place where you can buy retarded cutesy things as souvenirs for your friends. as far as house brands go i think i still like M&S the best. sains/coop are cheaper but M&S tastes better. albert heyn is not bad too.
10. the beach. because i like the sea, because i can spend hours just looking at the waves going in and out without doing anything in particular, because i am old and sedentary.
yep that’s pretty much it. also things i normally do should not by any means be halted just because i’m in a different country. i still want to sleep in until noon, i’m on holiday for crying out loud what’s with the 8am alarm? i’m never travelling with kiasu people who get up at the break of dawn for a reason that’s beyond/beneath me.
i need my internet. and sometimes replying emails are more interesting than getting out there and acclimatising. i would rather get to know someone i’m interested in on a deeper level than get to know a completely foreign cathedral and its stained glass windows for the first time.
i need books. that’s non-negotiable.
as you can tell the ‘attractions’ i went to on this holiday are places that mean something to me. not completely random famous places that i couldn’t care less about. highlights were pemberley (because i love austen and i love p&p and i love colin firth), the concertgebouw (where i died and went to heaven), david mitchell’s college, kings college chapel (and the marvellous organ! and portcullis), and the escher museum. would have liked to visit mauritshuis and see the girl with the pearl earring but well we
greedily wisely decided to spend all our money on food because that has greater happiness returns for us. poffertjes ftw!
more importantly, we went about each day with absolutely no expectations at all, only to return at night to bask in the warm glow of smugness and accomplishment at having seen this particular artwork, at saving €3 scamming the dutch commute, at having caught the train, at having found the best prices in the supermarket, at having chosen perfect restaurants to dine at, at having navigated to everywhere we wanted to go to without getting lost, etc. etc. there are so many things to feel accomplished about if you expect nothing of yourself/the locale in the first place.
there is never nothing to do in a place. there is only nothing to do somewhere if you’re so boring you can’t think of something interesting to do there.
the point of my travel is to figure out how to get around/get by in a place as if a local, to not see the differences between different places but to be a successful inhabitant of the world at large.