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Vietnam relic

Value of travel (story of a relic)

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

Relic in Vietnam

What is the value of a travel experience?

Difficult question. You know how much a physical trip will cost you: just add up the transport, food and lodging. But how much is your experience worth?

I notice how many people compare their (travel) experiences. Comparisons are made on distances, costs, places and events.

“When I was in Thailand I saw this temple and that palace and I also attended a dance performance!” OK, cool. Does that mean your trip was better than mine?

Of course not!

When you compare it to my travel, maybe I didn’t plan a thing and ended up watching an old man sweeping his porch at 6am, dressed in orange monk clothes. Or just walked through the neighborhood and watched how people live.

Two totally different experiences, impossible to compare. And we shouldn’t. The value of travel is priceless where to me it’s all in the details. Something ordinary can mean the world to someone while another one passes by without even noticing it.


It’s like a relic. A relic is important to some, while meaningless to others. Most of the time it is nothing special and the value is hard to explain.

Take the car in the picture. OK, it’s a classic now, but it used to be nothing more than a car. We bumped into it in Vietnam. After looking at it more carefully, we discovered more than a car: a relic.

This is the car in which Thich Quang Duc, a Vietnamese monk, drove to a busy intersection in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) on 11 June 1963. He then stepped out of the car, calmly seated himself in the traditional Buddhist meditational lotus position and set himself on fire….

Vietnam relic

His self-immolation was a protest against the Vietnamese government’s persecution of Buddhists. This car changed from being an ordinary vehicle to a symbol of freedom and personal sacrifice.

You cannot put a price tag on that, same as one cannot value our encounter when discovering this relic during our trip to Vietnam.

Do you happen to know about an interesting relic with a great story? Maybe one you discovered during travels?

Relic in Vietnam

Note: this staggering story of Thich Quang Duc reminds me of what happened earlier this year in Tunesia. How painful to see that human sacrifice is sometimes needed to open up people’s eyes to inhumane behavior in our world.

The car mentioned in this blog post is parked at Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue, Vietnam.

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Michi August 13, 2011 - 15:06

Wow, I learn something new everyday. I had never heard of Thich Quang Duc, thanks for posting about this Emiel.

And you’re right, travel experiences are priceless. But what you learn and gain within are most valuable. 😉

Jenna August 10, 2011 - 05:27

Beautiful post, Emiel! I can’t comment much on the relic part of your story except that it’s heartbreaking to think of the monk sacrificing himself in protest. But I will add total agreement that travel experiences cannot be compared. We are all so different and so are the ways we value what we experience. I like slow travel with appreciation of the simple things.

Farnoosh August 7, 2011 - 02:55

Emiel, you are one of the fewest writers who truly embraces the meaning and experience of travel. I have nothing to add here, just an appreciation for your writing and story telling and gratitude to see you continuing this journey of writing and sharing your world of travels with us.

Emiel August 7, 2011 - 13:41

Thank you very much Farnoosh! Your appreciation means a lot to me.


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