Travel Throwback: Walking Aimlessly

It has been well over a year since Semester at Sea Spring 2013 and I find myself thinking about it more and more. It was fantastic, and I can’t wait to travel again.

wandering sas

Because I was on a fairly limited budget, I tended to stay in the cities where we docked and I tried to walk as much as possible. Of course I had plans and short trips, but I often spent some time just walking through the city without much of an agenda. I would like to say that I took really deep HONY-esque pictures, but most of those pictures are in my head, safely.

Anyway, I walked, and sometimes got lost, and I felt like I melted into the streets and got a tiny taste of what it was like to live there. To blend in as much as I could (which was all relative in most countries with my fair skin and strange accent). We walked a LOT in Japan (my feet were killing me after Tokyo), and on the last day in Japan I spent a few hours walking completely alone in Kyoto. My editors at YJI had introduced me to an amazing friend of theirs, who had spent some time showing me around. When he left, I wandered around and ended up walking for hours. It was really cool. I read a lot about Kyoto’s history as I walked. I don’t know what this project is called, but it’s cool. These monuments explain a bit about the street names and the history of their origin. Very cool for someone who loves history (me).


I watched little kids walking home from school, and teenagers chatting and joking. Later, back in Kobe, I met up with some SASers who were also walking back to the port, and we cut through a massive public sports field. There we met up with some Japanese college students, who invited us for a game of Soccer. Although I have two left feet. So that was awesome!

In Hong Kong a friend and I also spent most of one day discovering the city. We got incredibly lost and it was wonderful (yeah, I didn’t think I would ever say that, either). I saw non-touristy parts of the city where people were too busy going about their lives to try to sell me something.

Yangon (Myanmar) was probably one of my favourite cities to walk aimlessly in. I felt like I knew so little about the people, and a lot of them were wary of answering questions, so observing the city as I walked gave me a better feeling of its struggles and atmosphere and joys. In Casablanca I had an intense conversation with a local linguistics professor about the evolution of languages, the Arab Spring and the youth of his country.

It’s a pretty intangible concept, this idea that a place sometimes nestles in your being when you are walking around in it, watching it, tasting it, feeling it. You don’t find facts, but you find a sense of it that you can’t shake. I could lose my photos (God forbid) and the memories may grow fuzzy, but the sense of the cities I visited remains unique and vivid. It makes me feel like I did not just visit there. I was part of it. I was one of the many feet that trudged through it. And maybe for a few seconds, I was just another cog in the wheel of those cities.

I refuse to be ashamed that I visited India but not the Taj Mahal, and China but not the Great Wall. Maybe one day I will visit those, but I don’t feel that I have missed out. I had experiences that money could not buy, education that no class could teach, networking that no conference could offer. I will never feel sorry that for a few days at a time, I got caught up in the web of interwoven threads that make us human.


  1. hello, try Philippines 😀 ill tour you around!

    1. It is certainly on my list! Thank you! 😀

  2. Peace says:

    So beautiful my dear.
    I also feel part of us stay in any city we live in, regardless of the time.

  3. Karl Drobnic says:

    Kudos to you for walking aimlessly. I did it a lot in my youthful travels. A good scouting technique is to get up very early on a weekend morning and hop on a city bus. Just stay on it until it comes back to where you started. Early on weekend mornings usually means you have the bus to yourself and can see out. You’ll get into places you wouldn’t reach on foot, and they may be interesting enough to go back for some walking. Don’t fret about missing the Taj Mahal. It is beautiful if you can visit in the full moon, and then you should do it. Otherwise, you’re likely to be disappointed.

    1. Yes, I like the bus idea! I know someone who rolls a dice and then gets off on the stop that coordinates with the number he rolls. I love that kinds of traveling!

  4. nihoa83 says:

    I studied abroad in Germany during college and have never found a way to so beautifully explain the feelings I still have (I returned there to live for three years after college) about this experience. Though I still travel, it is somehow different to have an agenda…and I preferred the lifestyle of losing myself in a place. I still feel it there as you have described–this sense that the pictures and facebook posts aren’t really the part that meant anything. I carry it with me and look through the eyes of a person who has seen sunsets in Prague, been frozen in Budapest, and lounged on the Red Sea in Egypt.

    1. Oh that sounds lovely. I still want to visit those countries too. I’m glad you feel the same 🙂

  5. Nancy Ackelson says:

    So great to sample your memories of this trip! I love this, thank you Mariechen!!!!

  6. harveylisam says:

    There’s no reason to go to The Great Wall or the Taj Mahal just because you’re in those countries – no big deal! 🙂 There are lots of other wonderful things to see when you travel, as you’ve just described. Great to read about your travels!

  7. Lwazi says:

    Hi! I absolutely love travelling, starting my Chinese adventure this Winter, I plan to travel as much China as I can over my remaining for 4 years.
    PS it’s no shame you never got to see the Great wall/ Taj Mahal, I feel there’s more beautiful & lovely cities than the international acclaimed one’s. Love your blog!

    1. Thank you! I definitely want to return to China – I’ve spent some time there but just not enough. Have loads of fun and take a lot of pictures!

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