50 Shades of Travel

Gimp Suit

For those of us who have been on the road for any length of time, the warm, tingly sensation of exploration is what drives us onward to each subsequent destination. It is the allure of a new conquest, a new challenge, the chance to delve into the depths of a new country, a new culture, to find pleasure in uncovering the hidden mysteries that no on else has seen. It is the lure of forbidden fruit, beckoning us onwards. Just the tip. Just to see what it feels like.

The first time is always exhilarating; a rush of emotions, nervousness, panic, culture shock, and sometimes even a few moments of desperate “ohmygodwhatthehellwasithinkingdoingthis” as you are surrounded by the unknown, the different, the strange, the uncomfortable. Teenagers marrying at the age of 12. Drinking legally at the age of 14. Shamans cutting the heads off chickens and sprinkling blood on the locals as the body writhes in the hands of the spiritual leader. Men with seven, eight, nine wives, ranging from 14 years to 30 years of age. Deep-fried tarantulas, cockroaches and other delicacies. Bribing and wheel-greasing with cash money. Legal prostitution. Legal drug use.

Every time you come into contact with one of these experiences, you feel a rush of emotions associated with fear, outrage, exhilaration, shock, awe and possibly even disgust. Nervousness. Anticipation. Excitement. It is your cultural virginity reacting. You cannot control your outbursts, because you are new and inexperienced, and every little thing causes sensations that send you over the edge.

A Lover’s Embrace

Over time, after you pop your travel cherry, those moments of cultural difference are what drives you on to the next destination where you experience that same sensations over and over again. Your first few times fade into the comfortable warmth of experience.

Instead of a rush of nervous anticipation followed by a crashing wave of emotions and overwhelming sensations, you pull the strange, the different, the unique, over your skin like a well-worn blanket. You are a Traveler, well-versed in the ways of the world. A quickie just won’t do; you prefer the long, slow, drawn-out affairs where you are deep within the confines of a country for weeks, months and possibly even years at a time, uncovering every hidden mystery along the way.

You have become the experienced lover, caressing each destination with the tender and masterful touch of someone who takes their time, exploring every nook and cranny, riding each wave of emotion, of experience, to the crest. You no longer enjoy short bursts of pleasure, nor are your ventures into other countries brief and hasty with the fumbling groping of a first-timer. You are no longer a virgin, titillated by brief encounters and momentary thrills. You prefer making love to a destination as opposed to simply getting off.

Dom or Sub

You have two choices when you make your way into the world of travel. You can let the cultural differences of the world dictate your experience, or you can choose to rise above, to control your emotions, to master your conscious self and experience Planet Earth as a fully aware and educated human being. In short, you can choose to be a sub or a dom.

A sub is dominated by their upbringing, their religious beliefs, their cultural brainwashing. It’s all about programming. Just as a computer hard-drive is a piece of hardware that can be formatted over and over again, stripped of all the old data and reprogrammed with new data as the user dictates, your mind operates in the same fashion. It is merely a piece of hardware that is programmed to think and react a certain way based upon the code that you have installed.

In the case of the culturally ignorant, the religiously zealous, and the woefully inexperienced cultural virgins, the mind reacts in a very simplistic way. It is offended by new or different experiences because it has been programmed that way. A Christian viewing a Buddhist/Muslim/Taoist as inferior is the perfect example of this. A visitor from the United States feeling shock and disgust at seeing two 14 year old teenagers drinking beer legally in Bulgaria is another. These are submissive types who are ruled by their emotions and programming, forever destined to have their lives controlled by those who are doing the programming.

A dom is in completely control over their surroundings. They realize that cultural awareness is simply a matter of reprogramming their base system to appreciate cultures on a global scale. They dominate their own existence because they do not take offense at cultural differences, but rather accept them as part of the overall journey. They sit down and drink a beer with the 14 year olds. They accept all religions and spiritual walks on equal terms. They regularly strip their hard-drive and reprogram it with new information at every destination, continually upgrading and modifying their own code to remain relevant in an ever-changing, ever-evolving world.

Dominating your environment is about a return to first premises. It is a relative approach to life. It is the acceptance that every human being on the planet is equal, deserving of the same levels of respect in terms of religion, culture, education and life. It is choosing to explore and appreciate all cultures on an equal level, embracing them with the tender caress of a lover, enjoying each destination for weeks, months and years, immersing yourself in the culture, the people and the destination.

Making Love to Culture

There is a vast difference between the quick, jerky movements of a virgin who gropes and fumbles their way through a destination before reaching an early, uncontrolled climax… and the slow, measured pace of an experienced lover, one who takes their time with each culture, ensuring that they achieve maximum enjoyment from the encounter, and gives as good as they get, sustaining the moment until the last possible second.

The little things are what should be cherished while traveling. Embrace them. Let them intoxicate you with their difference. Revel in the unknown  the unexplored, the new, the challenging, the off-the-beaten-path. Approach each destination as a potential conquest meant to be sustained over weeks and months with passion and immersion, not a quick fling soon to be forgotten once the next new shiny comes along, dressed to whore and ready to strip you of your cash.

Allow yourself to explore the full potential of a culture and you will quickly find yourself realizing just what it is that the rest of us slow travelers are talking about. Making love to a destination with the passion of experience is so much more refined than the quick thrusting of the newbie, and leaves you with so much more satisfaction than a one-night stand or weekend fling.

Sub or Dom…which one are you?

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Featured image pulled from this article at Cracked.com. 

About T.W. Anderson

T.W. Anderson is the founder of the Marginal Boundaries brand. He is the writer, editor, videographer, photographer, and social media guru alongside Cristina Barrios, the other half of the brand. In his spare time, he is the creative director of the Saga of Lucimia, a forthcoming MMORPG from Stormhaven Studios, LLC.


  • Don’t know about the whole dom and sub theme; cultural differences have always struck me as more complicated than that, but if the point is to encourage people to open up and rethink, then that is a good message.

  • Samuel: Indeed. The absorption level tends to be so low because they were feeling superior the whole time…so they never really experience the cultures. Thanks for dropping by!

  • I think a lot of times subs come home feeling a sense of superiority (in terms of their culture and beliefs) having not absorbed or integrated at all with the cultures they were experiencing abroad.

  • Indeed, Freya :) If it’s too hot in the kitchen, get out!

  • Freya says:

    A dom without any doubt, for me traveling is all about exploring new cultures, ways of living, habits.
    If you travel and expect things to be exactly the same as at home, I guess it is better to stay home.

  • @ Elaine: For many, the first time can be difficult. I think for all of us we are a bit wide-eyed the first time out of the gates. But some people handle it better than others in terms of cultural acceptability. Good to know you made the transition and are taking your time now :)

  • Nice piece. It’s a great metaphor for the topic. It’s funny how you relate the first travel experience to popping your cherry. It’s a lot like drug use as well, you go out searching for bigger and better thrills. 5 days in a city isn’t enough, you have to spend 5 weeks there to get your rush going. It’s sad that so many people have become subs and are so very myopic in their view of the world. Oh well, let them have their TV and McDonalds, I’ll take the rest of the world :-)

  • @ Laura: I think the level of hardness depends on the person. No pun intended =P

  • It’s a hard world out there, even for travelers. This is simply the truth. Lovely post.

  • I started out as a sub but have worked to become a dom. I think the first time you travel internationally most people are subs. It’s really up to them to open their minds to the culture and really try to experience it to the fullest. Such a loss if they don’t.

  • @ Troy:

    Indeed, most subs aren’t cut out for a life of full-time travel, but instead are more suited to a life of suburbia with the comfort of McDonald’s, English-language menus and spoon-fed media…even while traveling abroad in the comfort of their all-inclusive, gated resorts.

  • Troy says:

    Enjoyed the article. Seems to me like subs wouldn’t be able to travel long term.

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