"Everywhere is about the same. We're all the same. We all live the same way."

A post shared by Kevin Ouyang (@kevinouyang) on

I was quite perplexed when my friend Esther said that.

Catching Wanderlust 

Dear fellow HGV owners,
Hi, I’m Kevin and Hilton Grand Vacations asked me to share some thoughts on travel here on WhereTo. In my first year out of college, I traveled well over 40,000 miles throughout the US and definitely left just as many footsteps worldwide since — for leisure 🙂

Rewind 6 years ago to a trip touring Southeast Asia; I did not know it at the time, but it was a life-changing adventure — one that ensured that I would never stop traveling and seek what bridges our human experience.

Scribbling on Google Maps circa 2012. We’ve come a looong way in travel planning.

Plane to boat to bus to speed boat?!

I recall sitting at my college library racking my brain on the logistical nightmare hopping across Asia. My companions, Winnie and Esther, made the task look effortless. Winnie calculated logistics in a spreadsheet and Esther was an uncanny human compass. The itinerary was such a constant-moving feat that our friends from college could not physically land at any point for even a few hours to rendezvous with us! That trip made me yearn for more. It showed me that we don’t need as much as we -think- we need to live. 

“Do it for the ‘Gram”

Social media has done wonders in spurring and inspiring travel but absolutely glamorized the idea of travel. At every single swipe, we are teased by heavily-filtered, over-saturated renditions that glamorize even the most putrid of swamps as pristine turquoise lakes. Some photos are so doctored that I cannot tell the foreground from the background anymore!

Unfiltered Glory
Filtered

I encourage everyone to “stroll around” your destination on Google Street View, research hotels (or just stay at your trusty Hilton) and read TripAdvisor reviews to get a realistic look of what you’re in for.

In Their Shoes

I believe that every trip embarked upon should be one of personal significance and self-reflection. I cannot help but spectate, daydream and imagine my life in the locals’ shoes, for better or for worse. I inevitably ask locals about cost of living, past-times and challenges. People love to share stories about themselves!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BN8ZgLrh-LM/?hl=en&taken-by=kevinouyang

In Costa Rica, our cacao farm tour guide not only explained the cultivation process and the Frosty Pod Rot that devastated South American cacao plantations during the 1980s but also life as a lawyer raising a family.

In short — don’t just ‘tour’; explore and empathize.

Let’s Make a Pact

For every place you visit, I challenge you to reflect afterwards:

How do you feel now? What did the locals say versus what you perceived beforehand?

 And I’ll be as candid and unfiltered as possible in my posts here on WhereTo. So Where To next? Vegas! It will be grand. Hilton Grand.

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