12 cities in 14 days! Only a couple of days in each city to absorb all their glory! Every famous spot must be seen, every famous food must be tried, every famous activity must be taken part in. Otherwise, it’ll be a wasted trip!
It’s clear that not all approaches to travel are equal.
Most people make the same mistakes when abroad, and I’m no exception. I’ve since learned from my mistakes, squeezing every drop from my travels. Full disclosure: I’ve only been traveling for the past two years.
Social Media Rush
As described in the opening paragraph’s example, this is a common form of travel and, in this writer’s humble opinion, by far the worst. The point of your vacation was for a recharge and some novel experiences, right? Then why burn it at both ends like you’re fighting for a deadline? Perhaps you’re a history buff and need to see all the famous historic locations. Knock yourself out.
For the rest of us, this form of travel will leave you sicker, sleep deprived, and with less energy than when you left. Sure, you’ll take plenty of pictures of yourself in cool locations, but like a trend I noticed in highschool, parties with loads of posed pictures are often the most boring. Likewise for vacations.
I call this the Social Media Rush because a majority of the pictures are for posting online. It’s to give an impression, and often little else. Again, I’ve also fallen victim to this and still can’t help but want beautiful pictures on my trips, but there’s a better way than rushing around.
Maybe you’ll feel like your trip was wasted by not seeing every famous location. Frankly, that’s a crock of shit. Do you actually want to see those places? Are they significant to you on their own merit, or is it because everyone else says it’s worth seeing?
I’ve been to many places that I couldn’t care less about only because of the location’s reputation. If that’s the core reason, then you might as well not go. This distinction can only be made by you, however, so really think about it when planning your trip.
This method is a decent combination, but also falls into the similar trap as the Social Media Rush. Typically, locals will show you some amazing places, but they’ll seem disappointed if you don’t go on tours. They’ll bring you to the more impressive locations – with a pricetag to match. While in Indonesia, I received an hour massage treatment for $71 USD only to find the same service offered in town for $5. Granted, the first was absolutely gorgeous, and the second was a dingy shop, the service was roughly equal.
The upside is that they will be able to point you to obscure locations and can help you find cheaper, higher value options if you insist on them. It all depends on the guide. They will also provide the obvious benefits of translation, cultural context, and possibly having relationships with vendors that could score you discounts. It’s hit or miss.
If you prefer to see the hidden gems of a location, hear about some history, and avoid the struggle of language barriers, then this is the method for you. Be kind, tip your tour guide well, and hold firm to what you want. This is the best bang for your buck while get the inside scoop.
The main trick to this is captured in one word: No.
Say no to everything that comes your way and cement yourself in your favourite relaxation spot. Do only what feels right. Sleep when you want to sleep, swim when you want to swim, chat when you want to chat. Forget everything else. Some may see doing nothing in an exotic location to be a waste of a flight. It’s not. The point of getting away should be to renew and refresh yourself.
While some people enjoy sunbathing all day, others find idleness stressful. If that’s you, skip this. If that’s someone you plan to travel with, reconsider your travel partners. If they insist on coming because you’re married, send them somewhere that you’re fine with skipping. Bask until your heart’s content.
For this situation, I’d suggest going to a nearby country where your dollar will go further. Staycations are also a worthy option. As the Australians sometimes say “a change is as good as a vacation,” so why not try a simple change in scenery to be your vacation to save some dough?
What if you want to relax, have plenty of time off, and a little light in the wallet? This last option is perfect for use while at home or abroad.
Popularized in 18th century France, the word went from a negative connotation of a pointless wanderer to one describing someone who is open for both discovery and adventure. In a sense, this is the opposite of the Layabout approach: the key is saying yes.
- Step one: Pick a direction.
- Step two: Start walking.
That’s… basically it. Talk with those you encounter, explore areas that hold your interest, ask for suggestions, and avoid areas you’re familiar with. In our home city, we often sleepwalk along the same paths and deviate only when we have something specific in mind. This is to break that habit.
As mentioned, this can also be used abroad to great success. While in Perth, Australia, I discovered some hidden prizes that pleasantly surprised my local friends. It was a great experience, all thanks to exploring with fresh eyes.
Then again, I’m the type that likes to know how things are going to go. I like to mentally prepare before committing to an invitation. This often closed me off of to last minute opportunities, which I felt was a necessary step to overcome in my personal journey. That’s why the Flaneur approach has become my favourite.
Getting everything you want from a trip is impossible if you don’t know what it is. Figure out your goal before moving past the planning stage. My personal mix goes something like this:
If you’re going somewhere for a week, set 3 days out for seeing the sights you want to see. This will check off the box of seeing what you feel obliged to see and give you some cool photos in beautiful locations. Again, don’t try to see everything.
When planning how many cities to see, rank a list of the top 5. Next, chop off the bottom 3. I’ve found it takes roughly a month to become passingly familiar with a city, so stuffing more than 2 into a week will cause them to bleed together. You’ll also waste at least a day on transportation between packing, waiting, traveling, and finding your new hotels. Wasted time is what we want to avoid.
Arrival and departure dates will often be partial days, and you’ll have little time for anything more than (un)packing, getting your bearings, and having a meal. See them as write offs unless you absolutely must get a jump on things from go.
For the last three days, I suggest a 2:1 ratio combination of flaneurie-guide hybrid and layabout. If you enjoy relaxing more than exploring, make two of the days for layabout, and one for exploring. The flaneur-guide hybrid is where you have a guide bring you to locations with things you want to discover. While flaneurie involves completely open wandering, there’s no point in wandering the business district when all you want to find is an open air market.
There you go! You now have four new approaches to travel. Of course, I didn’t include things like hunting trips, or other rarer forms of quasi-legal travel. I can only talk about what I’ve personally done.
To close, here’s advice from a fellow traveling friend:
Slow down. Stop rushing. Nothing is stressful if you give yourself enough time.