So many people travel for different reasons - Holiday, vacation, to relax, to escape the city, shopping, exploring a new territory, going for some extreme sport, or maybe even hiking. For both me and my sister, we both have travelled many times with our parents on trips following tours which were, to be honest, a total rip off. But then again, they do plan out everything and all you have to do is fork out money - which is an easy task. No worries, just pack the luggage and change the currency and you're good to go.
I am a total convert - from going on tours to doing-it-yourself - after our trip to Japan in 2008 when our family decided to have a bit of faith and do a 2-week budget trip. We all survived with just 1 cabin sized bag each of items, and it was actually sufficient. Having a cabin bag each was easy to manage since we moved quite a lot around each city and it taught us to be independent. Being able to truly have a good sense of the place without the constraints of being on a tour felt so good, so much freedom! We ate a lot of ramen, udon, and soba noodles from so many random shops and it was fantastic. We never had to pay tips we did not feel comfortable giving; We did not have to take tacky photos mounted in kitsch paper frames that we were obliged to buy; We never had to eat in restaurants which we did not desire. Instead, we could have a taste of the real, typical Japanese food a Japanese would have on a day-to-day basis. Since then, I don't think we ever went on a tour group again. Yeah, we never did.
In recent years there seem to be the trend of more and more people going overseas due to a couple of reasons - Cheap budget airlines offering affordable airfare prices, websites that offer deals like Groupon which offers both accommodation and airfare for a price, or maybe sometimes in some other kind of combination like perhaps with some entrance ticket of a theme park. Travel is so easily accessible now, but are we really making the best out of it?
A lot of people go overseas to do shopping. I can understand that. I mean hell, I am guilty of it too. I've been to Bangkok just for shopping while my guy friends had to stand around and wait for hours on end in Chatuchak under the unforgiving sun. And I also know it is sometimes hard to break out of that "I'm on holiday ma, just spend only" mentality for shopping. It's not a bad thing, it could make you feel better about yourself. Maybe by spending that kind of money, it justifies that your holiday was a fruitful one.
Bangkok and many travels later, I am different again. Each travelling journey opens my eyes. Each travel experience is like an external factor changing something inside of me. I no longer put this 'shopping' on the top of my list. Yes I am like any other girl, I love to shop for clothes and all that other bull crap - (P/s: do you guys notice how many pouches girls like to buy? What do they actually put in them?!). But now I always ask myself - "Do I really need this to remind me that I came here? I don't. So now-now put that down, you can probably use that money for a bus ticket later."
Also, I guess just, particularly when anyone, perhaps in Singapore, thinks of Bangkok, it is always about the shopping. The connotations of Bangkok seems wrong. I am really guilty of this because other than shopping, I really did not do much when I went there a couple of years earlier. I would definitely like to rediscover Bangkok again.
Thinking back, I sorta had a tad of 'training' of restraining myself from shopping when I studied overseas, as I knew that I had a lot of stuff there and might not be able to bring them all back to Singapore. So I constantly reminded myself of these reasons in my head hence I did not purchase more than 10 clothing items over the course of 3 years.
My point is, the point of travelling is, of course, to explore new places and experience new things. It is actually ok if you do spend a lot of time shopping in malls - maybe that was your true intentions and that is your kind of way of getting to know a place. But, I would like to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone (the malls) and step outside. Be inquisitive - be a traveller, not a tourist. Look at how the scenery is calling out to you. Ditch that pair of shoes that cost only 100 Baht for a trip to Nana, or even sample their local roadside food; Drop that branded bag and check out the Eiffel tower and its surrounds. You will see much more and experience much more if you just take the first step, and that first step will definitely be rewarding, and then you will never want to stop again.