There’s a lot of hubbub in the travel ranks about whether it’s better to embark on a whirlwind tour of many places or hunker down and engulf yourself in one area for a prolonged foray. Well, ladies and gentlemen, as one who has recently ended a tumultuous three-month, 17 country renegade jaunt through Western Europe and around the world, and also had relatively lengthy stays in a few different countries, I feel it would behoove the yearning public to remain unacquainted with my completely subjective two cents. As my lawyer turned Latin teacher used to tell us, whenever there is a highly disputed and intricate question at hand, the answer is remarkably easy, and that answer is… it depends.
I know, I know, a complete copout answer designed to release me from my responsibility to answer the delicate question. As my rather ridiculous English used to say, “If you don’t get off the fence, you’re liable to have your balls cut off”. Now, which teacher, Latin or English, is correct, that’s a different topic. But putting all academic advice aside, let’s dig into this considerably intriguing dilemma.
First off, this is a good problem to have. As I’m sure someone wise and perhaps related to Alfred Lord Tennyson once said, “‘tis better to have traveled and left than to have never traveled at all”. But how to travel is the crux of this issue.
When I look back on my walkabout through Europe I can’t say I had a moment I didn’t enjoy. The challenges I faced while trying to navigate through so many different places so quickly were certainly rewarding, but at the same time potentially tiresome. You have to pick your battles and accept it’s impossible to see everything on one trip. I had three wondrous days in Rome, but could have easily filled up thirty. I spent one night each in Brussels and Naples, didn’t get a very good impression of either, but felt as though if I had the opportunity to stay longer, I could have easily given in to the cities’ charm.
My time constraints lost me the opportunity to really dig deep into any of the cities I visited. But at the same time, those same time constraints allowed me to become more efficient and productive with my time in each city. When you know you will be in one area for an extended period of time I think we naturally tend to put off visiting or doing things we believe we’ll have enough time to do later. But suddenly, one thing leads to another, then the time comes to leave, and you’re left thinking how did I manage not to do x, y, or z. You took time for granted, something someone with little of it would be sure never to do. I witnessed so many different and exciting places, and met so many new and enchanting people simply because I supplanted myself into a situation where it was required.
On the flip side, just as some people thrive on moving around every few days, some thrive on just the opposite, immersing themselves into and country, culture, and community with satisfying ease. It doesn’t matter how many places you’ve visited, but rather how you’ve visited them. The personal prize that comes with truly learning a people and place can create an everlasting bond of appreciation. Weaving yourself into the fabric of a community allows for a deeper understanding than anything you’ll ever get in a few day stay.
There can also be great challenges starting anew in an unfamiliar place. New foods, languages, etiquettes, social, religious, and political perspectives all dare you to move out of your comfort zone. With each uncomfortable step you gain the ability to learn about yourself and others. It’s an outstanding method for ripping back the superficiality of being just a tourist and really getting at the heart of your environment.
So, here we lie. Stuck between superficial, yet spontaneous and efficient fleeting stays, and limited, yet profound and eye opening extensive forays. The answer to which reins champion is truly up to you. It depends on what you need, who you are, and why you’re traveling.
To save my balls, I must admit that for me, fleeting stays float my boat. I love the unpredictability, the constant change, and the environment that forces me to act. There is no right or wrong choice, and I would never say my preference will not change, because in the end, travel is all about change. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing the new and different. Meeting new people, coming across new places, and learning about yourself and others comes with either method. If you boil this battle all the way down, you’ll always be left with one fact; it depends on you.