On many trips the travelers may feel as though they have to see everything for which a destination is known. I have been on many of these trips. I have even planned many of these. It is a natural impulse. Who knows if or when we will get back there. If not seen now, then when? Who among us would visit the Louvre for the first time and not stop in the hall housing the Mona Lisa, standing there with the crowds to get a peek over others’ shoulders? I am not going to advise anyone to miss something dear to their travel ambitions. But I will ask, do we really need to do it all? Is there something we can leave behind to see or do another day? What if, instead of an endless highway, we just stopped for a bit?
In this I am influenced by more than just travel experiences. I think many things are better for not worrying too much about having it all, seeking 100% efficiency or success rates. Gardens are healthier when we recognize that nature should get a slice of the bounty as well; rabbits get a few carrots (not all) birds get some fruit (again not all) and some things just die on the vine and return to the soil. Water resource policy makers should not fret if less than 100% of a river’s waters are used to the point where nothing is left to flow into the sea (see Colorado River).
And so too, not all of our time on a trip should be scheduled to see and do all that you’ve heard you will want to see or do.
Which is not to say that priorities don’t count. I can’t imagine that a first time visitor to Granada in Spain would neglect to go see the Alhambra. Or it is understood that someone who travels to Paris for a holiday probably will see the insides of a museum or walk somewhere along the Champs-Élysées. What I am suggesting is to strike some balance between that and an itinerary so full of locations and tours that you cant keep it all straight.
It has become somewhat a common joke regarding the 7 days/7 capitals of Europe tours, every day a new city. It’s easy to make fun of them. But let’s be honest and acknowledge that many times we do something very similar ourselves, and entirely on our own without any tour to force us along. I know I have. But I am learning not to. With every trip I get slower and slower, see less and less, and I am enjoying it more and more.
Seeing everything is a hard impulse to resist. In fact it’s a reality that you may not get back to a place again. For many places that is more than just a theoretical chance. Especially for those of us with less life ahead than behind. So can your trip really pass by something? Aren’t you missing an opportunity?
Here is the thing about travel opportunities. Unless you can travel full time, all time spent on a trip doing one thing prevents you from doing something else. The time taken to rush to see 5 out of 7 possible trip advisor recommended sites, is time not spent leisurely sitting in a cafe overhearing people having conversations, strolling down a quiet lane listening to the sounds of real lives, finding the breakfast stop frequented by locals, seeing a vista for the 5th time but this time in a different light, or meeting someone from a different culture and making a connection. None of this nor the set itinerary are required, they are just choices. And we might choose to do less of what is expected ahead of time but more of what can’t be anticipated.
Why aren’t those things valued as well? You will not find any of them while reading through a guidebook, even the hip ones that bill themselves as providing more authentic advice. You will find them only by giving yourself the chance to stumble across them.
To bypass the well known and the recommended is only to give up doing what someone else has decided a good trip should include. Not what you might really enjoy yourself.
Mainly, this means slowing down. For example, I sometimes use slower ways to travel. Getting from one place to another can be part of the trip, sometimes a great part. But that usually is not in an airplane or even in a modern bullet train. I love it best when the trip starts when I begin to travel, not just after I arrive.
I have been getting better at setting aside more time in any given place, planning on fewer days filled with simply moving from one to another. Sometimes this just means I don’t change hotels every night. As I settle in, things tend to just happen. Slowing my pace means trusting in serendipity rather than just an itinerary.
This has been a hard lesson for me as well. On many trips over the years I have rushed from one place to another, cramming in a lot of stuff. They were great trips. But I have begun to think they might have been even better by seeing fewer places, and seeing more of each one visited. I am learning that if I took the time to get there, then it probably is worth the time to stay put, for longer and longer.
©️ 2019 D Abbott