Off to See the Sights

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Ruins

Why do I go on a trip? To “see the sights” of course. But what does that mean? What are the “sights”? The pictures that you see in travel magazines? During my travels I have come to the conclusion that the “sights” can differ wildly per person and per journey. It all depends on what you are looking for in a trip, what holds your interest, and what your trip has to offer. And it may take a journey around the world to discover what truly holds your interest.


My first impulse would be to see the cities. From the moment I started traveling, I have always loved cities. I like the way you can disappear into anonymity on the street and discover its ways. You see, every city has its own... soul. Once you get familiar with the city map, its architecture, streets, plazas and metro stations, it becomes a part of you.

Cities
Its secrets open to you as a flower that shows its true colors. It feels thrilling to be at the center of human happening. All around you people are living their lives, interacting with the city, part of the city.


And of course there is the archeological stuff, the ruins of long lost civilizations. It is actually a weird thing to go to a country to see the remains of the people that once lived there, instead of going to a country to see the people that live there now. If you go on a pre-arraigned tour to Egypt, which takes you past the pyramids and temples and puts you back on a plane home, have you seen Egypt? Why would you go all the way to Greece to see a few toppled pillars, while even the hostel you stay in is bigger and still in use?


But there is something mysterious about disappeared civilizations. The stones are actual proof that they existed and have a symbolic value. They give you the eerie feeling that our own culture may not last forever. And archeological sights look so different to what we are used to.

Ruins
Pyramids, Greek temples, the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, each has its peculiarities characteristic of the culture that built it; unique and different from our own.


Nature. Coming from the tiny, flat Netherlands, landscapes excite me. In a country like Peru, which has deserts, mountains, volcanoes and jungle, my eyes are constantly glued to the windows of the bus. Nature is a sight in itself and for many the main reason to visit a certain country. Sometimes every few kilometers the landscape is different.


People. Perhaps you have noticed this too. When you arrive in another part of the world where you have never been before, it takes a little time to get used to the faces. People look a lot like eachother, or , perhaps, it seems that you cannot get a grip on the way people look in this part of the world. Only after a few days the common features and minor variations of the faces become familiar. I think this is a fascinating experience. People are a sight too.


Interacting with people in other countries at first unnerved me.

People
I was (still am) shy and do not quickly trust people I encountered in taxis and on the street. I would rather that they leave me alone. But meeting a local person always turned out to be a very memorable experience afterwards and it deepens my understanding of the country. Still, I take it slowly and remain guarded.


Cities, Ruins, Nature, People, it all overlaps to create the soul of a place. I remember when I arrived in the Peruvian city of Ayacucho in the middle of the Andes. I was looking out over the main plaza where all the activity happened, where strange-looking people in weird clothes walked and talked, where old church towers were erected before the majestic view of the mountains behind the city, and I thought: what a great place to be! What a lovely Andean city! A Western woman beside me asked me a very serious question: “Do you actually think this is a beautiful city? If you look at the people and the streets that all look the same, do you think it is actually beautiful?” Well, perhaps beauty does not really sum it up. Perhaps traveling is not only about visual beauty. It is about experiencing a place in all its ways, including its people, its past and legacy, its modern situation, its nature. And that is a rich and fascinating experience.

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Ruins
Ruins
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Nature
Cities
Cities
Ruins
Ruins
People
People
Cities
Cities
People
People
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Nature
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