After ten years of writing my travel blog – “The Travel Adventures of the Amott Sisters” – I realized that my experiences had led me to a different perspective on travel, and so it was time for a change. The realization was gradual, as I crossed more places off my checklist and the same question began to occur to me at each destination: “Why am I here?”
The very first time I took an international flight, I was seated in the smoking section of a flight to Madrid to begin my college semester abroad. I arrived reeking of smoke and with a massive headache, but excited about the great unknown awaiting me. After a wild semester in Spain, I backpacked around Europe with a friend. In the days before smartphones and social media, it was easy to feel like I was on an exotic adventure, collecting my stories in a journal to share with all upon my great return home.
In my twenties, I continued to return to Europe for vacations. By my third trip to Florence I was feeling like a travel expert. And then I was invited to join some friends on a trip to South Africa. Arriving in Johannesburg, I felt the same heightened sense of excitement as when I first arrived in Madrid. Going on safari was unlike any other experience, and it was because of this trip that I started my travel blog. From then on I was determined to visit every continent and every major landmark. Originally, my sister joined me on these trips, thus the “travel sisters” in the name of the blog. But increasingly I was taking trips with other friends and then on my own.
It was on a trip to Cambodia when I found myself asking, “Why am I here?” I didn’t mean it existentially. I genuinely, literally, wondered what I was doing there. I had been expecting to have a spiritual experience watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat. Instead, I found myself focused on not losing my place as the crowd size substantially increased just before the dawn. I enjoyed the trip, but for the first time came home and spent time really considering my expectations in contrast to my experience.
While on a trip to Scotland, I finally realized what was creating this disconnect between expectation and experience. As my small group tour explored and took pictures, I noticed our guide was picking up trash left behind by others. I had never seriously considered the impact of travel. I assumed that by not having my sheets and towels washed during hotel stays I was being a responsible traveler. But following that trip to Scotland, I realized that I needed to rethink my reasons for traveling.
While I knew I would always remain curious about the world, and about people, places, and cultures, I decided it was time to slow down. Rather than racing off to the next adventure, I needed to reflect upon what it meant to be a traveler, a tourist, a visitor, a consumer. I took a course in sustainable tourism and began spending more time discovering local and regional destinations.
And I closed my travel adventures blog in order to start anew. I’ve enjoyed my journeys, and have kept some of my favorite stories here. But my goal with this site is to explore other dimensions of travel, from themes I’ve encountered in my experiences, to local discoveries, to cultural and lifestyle influences as well. While I’m grateful to never again have to sit in the smoking section of a plane, I hope to continue to get that same thrill from embarking on a new experience as I had when landing in Madrid all those years ago.
Oh, and why “room service”? Because as much as I like exploring, I also really like putting on my pajamas, ordering room service, and writing down my thoughts and observations while watching local TV. My room service ritual has pretty much inspired everything I’ve written here.