So, I’m totally about to call out one of my friends in this post so I just want to preface what I’m about to say with two clichés that will hopefully squash any judgy feelings.
- Stop and smell the roses.
- To each their own.
Here we go…
Oh, Americans. How I love to be one, but sometimes I just want to swat them upside the head. I will admit that it took a while for me to fully adjust to the slower lifestyle on this side of the pond, but I’ve never had a problem using my vacation time to just absorb my surroundings–something I find entirely impossible when you’re always on the go.
I know the mind set of wanting to get everything possible in when traveling because you’re not sure when your next chance to get a good trip in will be. But, can I just say how much more I appreciate my trips and vacations when I pace myself and take time to just soak everything in? I’m not saying, cross the ocean so you can sit beachside with your book the whole time, I’m saying, maybe try not to cram your days full of attractions.
Here’s what my friend, Christian, posted on Facebook:
“Day 1 in Paris was awesome! Over 13 miles of walking in one of the greatest cities in the world. Checked out: Notre Dame Cathedral, The Latin Quarter, The Louvre, Royal Palace, Eiffel Tower, Tuileries Gardens, French Academy, Musée d’Orsay, Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe. And the day isn’t even over :)”
Um, holy shit. That’s a lot to fit into one day. I’m just having a hard time believing that he made it to the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre in the same day, never mind all the others. When did he eat? Did he even get a chance to eat? What about coffee? And the croissants? You mustn’t forget the croissants!
Lest we forget that I just managed a trip to Spain where I stayed for a week and a half and only visited two (and maybe a half) official touristy sites the whole time I was there. Okay, I’ll admit, that’s at the other end of the spectrum.
Here’s the thing–Just going around foreign cities and seeing everything doesn’t yield more than a few pretty pictures. When you take the time to observe, you can draw up similarities and differences between cultures better, you can appreciate new and different perspectives on life from your own, and you have the chance to find other, lesser-known spaces, places, and experiences that don’t just supply you with memories of being surrounded by other tourists.
Being a solo traveler more often than not, one of my favorite ways to truly experience and absorb the culture in a new city is to just have a seat somewhere–park benches, cafés, restaurants, and pubs are all good choices–and have a drink and watch the world go by, and maybe, if you’re lucky and they’re not sketchy, interact and make friends with passersby. This activity can also be completed with your travel partner(s).
Now, I know my friend, Christian, doesn’t get the chance to take big trips very often and if I’m not mistaken, this trip is his first to Europe, so I understand wanting to get everything in (especially with the price of flights across the ocean), but as I told him in my comment on his Facebook status, don’t forget to spend some time just relaxing and soaking it all in. Stop and smell the roses, if you will. And for goodness sake, don’t forget the croissants!
Then again, maybe I’m nuts. To each their own, I suppose.