People are all different, and it’s safe to say we all find enjoyment in different ways. So why is it that so often when we travel, we feel pressured to experience new places a certain way? Everyone seeing the same landmarks, visiting the same museums, eating the same food, that kind of thing. I thought of a number of reasons, but ultimately they all boil down to two constraints: time and value. When we travel, we know that we have a severely limited amount of time everywhere we go, so we feel compelled to conduct our visit efficiently by checking off the top sights (or do’s, or tastes, what-have-you).
After going through the motions in a few large, historic cities, I found myself regretfully telling others, “oh it was beautiful, but I wish I’d spent more time there,” in combination with “I only really got a feel for it the last day, and then I had to leave,” and the dreaded “I wish I’d met more locals.” The first few places I visited, the comfort of the tourist areas kept me from enjoying my trips the way I wanted, and from building lasting memories in the process.
So how do you avoid these same regrets? You remove the factors that keep you comfortable and constrained.
Travel alone, or at least be ready to split up when interests diverge within a group. Spend your time hiking instead of visiting old towns if that feeds your thirst for adventure. I think they look better from above anyway.
Don’t book anything too far in advance. Obviously you’ll need to have already strayed slightly off the beaten path for everything to not be totally booked, but it leaves you free to spend another day if you’re finding you vibe with a place. On the flipside, this is how you spend 8 days at 4 different hostels in Warsaw. But it’s worth it when it becomes your favourite city!
And really, just keep an open mind and continue seeking out new things to do. You’re probably not going to learn a lot about yourself being herded from one touristic set piece to another, but you might do better by visiting an art exposition in a formerly abandoned industrial structure, even if you decide that’s not the scene for you. The beauty in taking risks is that you learn as much from the failures as you do from success, and this applies to travel as it does in life.
Guest post contributed by Andrei Potop.