Travelling for leisure is a relatively new concept within the grand scheme of world history. That means that as humans we’re constantly refining what we deem to be the best ways to travel and the best things to see and do while we are in a foreign land.
Travel is ultimately different for everyone. One person’s preferred style of travel might be another’s version of hell. But there isn’t any hard and fast ‘correct’ way to travel, and the people who think there is, well, they bug me.
We’ve all met those travellers who like to brag about the time they didn’t talk to a single person who wasn’t a local in the three months they spent in *insert country here*. These are also the type of people who huff and puff when you mention the time you had a McDonald’s in Poland or went on an all-inclusive holiday in Spain, but does that make them a ‘better’ traveller than you or anyone else? I’m not so sure.
When people say you should avoid ‘touristy areas’ when visiting new places I usually fail to understand what they mean. Should I avoid visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Should I skip the Colosseum in Rome? Not go to Angkor Wat for sunrise? These places are busy with tourists for a reason.
Places such as these stand as cultural and historical icons and I think they are worthy of being seen. They demand respect, and often the ‘touristy’ icons are part of the reason why cultures have evolved in the way that they have. For example, The Colosseum is an integral part of Rome’s history and a part of the reason why Rome is the way it is today. Things like this should not be ignored simply because they are deemed by some to be ‘too touristy’.
Many people become obsessed with NOT looking like a tourist when they’re exploring new places, but in reality you’re probably going to stand out in many of the places you visit in one way or another. I’ve got pale skin, freckles and auburn hair so I stand out pretty much everywhere except the UK and North America. I’m never going to look like a local in Spain, Thailand, Russia or the majority of other places I’ll visit on my travels. Chances are you’ve got something about you that’ll make you stick out in many places too. It’s pretty impossible to just blend into the background wherever you go.
Typically when I travel I’ll try to do a mixture of ‘touristy’ things and things that are more off the beaten track. For example, when I visited Berlin I visited the popular spots such as Brandenburg Gate and Museum Island, but I balanced that out by staying in an apartment in an area where I didn’t see a single other tourist in four days and hanging out in bars that were full of Berliners.
That’s the style of travel that works best for me. I certainly don’t ignore the touristy spots, but I try to combine them with some lesser known activities. I’ll always listen to locals advice on where to eat, drink and things they think I shouldn’t miss as I don’t always like to follow a guide book. This is the type of travel that I enjoy, but I would never say that it’s the right way to travel. I see the places that are important, but I place the most importance on the overall experience. Find the travel style that suits you and embrace it, no matter what anyone says.
Although that style of travel is my favourite and is most rewarding for me, that’s not the type of travel I always take part in. When I travel with my best friends from school we tend to go on all-inclusive summer breaks where we hit the pool and the beach during the day and the bars and clubs at night. Some people would say this is the ‘wrong’ type of travel, but I see nothing wrong with it if that’s what I want to do.
As long as you’re not harming anyone, being overly obnoxious or disrespecting any cultures or people, then I really believe there’s no prescribed right or wrong way to travel. As long as you gain an experience from it that you think was worthwhile then I guess that’s all that matters.
I’m visiting Paris later this year and you can be damn sure there’ll be a picture of me proudly standing next to the Eiffel Tower up on this blog shortly afterwards. Live and let live people!