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 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 that the question first popped into my head: “Why am I here?” It wasn’t an existential question, but rather literal. I was expecting to have a spiritual experience watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat, but instead 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.
I went to Scotland on a whim, when a bigger trip to Australia didn’t work out. Going solo, I booked a small group tour to the Highlands. I ended up falling in love with the country, but it was one simple act by our guide that changed my perspective on travel. At each stop, while our group explored and took pictures, our guide would pick up trash left behind by others.
I was fascinated by Scotland, and as soon as I returned home I began planning a return trip. People who were always asking me where I was off to next were surprised to hear I was going back. It led me to question why I was returning. Shouldn’t I be on to a new destination? I could’t fully explain it, but the country had a hold on me, and I wanted to spend more time there. And again the question: “Why?”
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 my first trip to Scotland, I realized that the answer to my question was that I was “here” because I was curious about the world, about people, places, and cultures.
But I was also concerned about the homogenization of travel, and about feeling like I was excessively documenting my trips yet posting the same thing as everybody else. After discovering the Sustainable Tourism Destination Management course at George Washington University, I enrolled to both learn more about this field and to reconcile my love of travel with the sense of responsibility I felt from the time I started helping our guide pick up trash in Scotland.
By the end of the course, I realized a few things. First, I didn’t need to venture to the far corners of the earth in order to call myself a traveler. Second, it was okay for me to follow my heart and continue exploring Scotland. I didn’t owe it to anybody to keep a tally of destinations. Finally, it was time for me to close the chapter on my blog and start anew. I enjoyed my adventures, and I’ve kept some of my favorite stories on this site.
I will continue to tell my stories. But I hope with this new site, and without the constraints of a title, I can explore other dimensions of travel, from themes I’ve encountered in my experiences, to local discoveries, to cultural and lifestyle influences as well.