Its an interesting perspective and one I’ve heard over coffee in Siem Reap, donuts in Da Nang, and on park benches in Hanoi. How much time to spend and how many places to see? How to maximize the country count in your gap year adventures. It may mean only spending a day in a place. I’ve read on twitter when I was still hanging there about people asking for one day advice in Hanoi. Stuff like,
Hey! I have one day in Hanoi. Tell me the must see places!
But I did not go either with or without exclamation points. It seems we are in a headlong rush to cram as much as we can into a set period of time. Perhaps fearing a thing will not be seen, we scrape instagram for the places others have said were worthy. There with the pictures of the place we can read the cute little micro-blog content that says to spend only two hours at a place or take the five day tour or almost like Gilligan the two hour tour. Constantly mired with time we seek to find the best that someone else spent finding our way in the world. I’ve speculated before what in Hell does it matter except for your twitter bio if you spend a year but only see 5 countries versus a year and see 30 countries? Is there someone that carefully tabulates the places and compares with your instagram feed? Does Pinterest get nervous if your “pins” aren’t so many? Do some twitter followers (like me) balk at your blog posts if every one is only about the itinerary for the busy millennial that must see it all in that year?
My manifesto is slow down dammit! Time is such a bad explainer of the effort of seeing things. When you combine time with never returning to a place you have been before because you are after the count of countries and the pageantry and pomp of the passport stamps with accompanying visas that all blend on the pages, you are captured and enraptured by editing those bio’s and adding yet more counts. Why? Here are my points:
- why use instagram to plan what you are going to see in a place you have never been before? why not start with the idea of spending moments instead of time in a place. Just book what you think you will like. I started planning a trip to Morocco and took different baselines of time because I don’t believe what everyone that has visited says. Why do you? Instagram is not a purveyor of truth. Its barely a photo sharing service. Its really just a micro-blogging content provider that specializes in ads interspersed with instagrammable moments of guy in front of temple with girl taking photo and then girl in front of museum with guy taking photo. If you use instagram to plan the daily adventures, good luck. All you will see is what others have plotted as instagram moments.
- why use twitter to plan what you are going to do? Twitter lays no more claim to fame to providing rich content either in the characters allotted or the blog posts referenced where you get the 5 tips in 10 days or the 3 things in 24 hours or how to monetize or do affiliate marketing or become a digital guru while on the road and make your mark as the digital nomad in the neighborhood.
Why use anything at all besides following your nose in a new place? Here is my take. Get lost in a place. Get turned around day after day with no hope of finding the path. Have the moments to spare to get found perhaps but spend the amount of time you spend following your nose. Perhaps allocate a day for a museum or two or seeing the must see sights but the rest of the time you have a nose. So follow it. Slow down folks. I promise to not judge you if you only see 5 countries in a year and you return to one twice. I will judge you though if you post on twitter or instagram of your exploits with the cute little photos of you and the temple and, in fact, every picture on your feed has you in it with some cute whimsical philosophical sayings in the caption.
So instead my manifesto says slow down. Follow your nose. Walk the city streets. Turn left and right and left or go the opposite way. You will have time to see the big things like temples and palaces and museums. I promise. Don’t you really want to be in charge of the moments though? They are yours. You earned them so why spend them on the journey of another’s thousand steps. Be master of destiny. Own the road. Go slow. No one judges unless you happen to take advice of the countless thousands of mavens who post on either of the social media sites about their adventures in 24 hours or 5 days in Hanoi. Just let me be clear 5 days is both enough and not enough in Hanoi. It all depends on your moments and what you do with them.
So don’t set goals as you walk out the door. Forget twitter and instagram as guideposts along your path. You are not put there to satisfy another’s goals or expectations. Further, forget the distinctions between tourists and travelers. Its all BS. A tourist can go to places that are not touristy (whatever those are or are not) and a traveler can visit Petronas Towers. Seek what the travel guru in your soul tells you matters. Slow down. Follow your nose. Don’t set goals or timelines. Create a reality for yourself above and beyond them.
Perhaps when you return from your RTW or gap year, you will not have found as much as that esteemed social media guru who has a travel and lifestyle blog who breezes through the places but I bet your experiences would never match up anyways.
Instead just be happy with what you did without goals and timelines and country and city counts. Get the experiences count instead.