The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. --Marcel Proust
I have always admired Proust for his profound and insightful words. But when I read this quote, my respect grew to an even greater level. I preach about how people need to travel and see the world, how they need to leave behind their everyday lives and experience something new. However, I have never addressed the highly irritating--and highly common--issue of the close-minded traveler. In a nut shell, this is the person who travels to different places, but cannot open their eyes to what their really experiencing. They go into the trip with the idea that they are going to a new place and therefore they are broadening their horizons, however, when they arrive, they look at everything the same way they do at home. They are the same person, with the same attitudes and opinions and views on life. Nothing has really changed except the setting.
I have had the unfortunate pleasure of traveling with people like this, and they are probably the most annoying travel companion you can have. (Yes, even more annoying than the extreme tourists who hang a camera over their neck, wear apparel that screams foreigner and snap photos of every passing streetcar.) It doesn't matter where they go, or what they see, or who they meet, their minds are forever closed to the beauty and culture that surrounds them. Sure, they can take the tour and learn the facts, but they aren't really soaking it in. What are they actually seeing when they enter that ancient church or world-class museum? They see what they want to see, and close themselves off to the things that they don't understand or care to know about.
So the next time you go on a vacation, cast aside all your habitual notions, all your conceptions and all your doubts, and just look at what is around you.