Travel is exhausting.
I mean you start by researching and planning and trying to figure it all out. Then comes the packing and flying and finally you get there and start with the agenda. See this museum, hike that mountain and definitely don’t forget to eat at the RIGHT restaurants!
I used to plan a trip based on what people told me, where everyone said I had to go. Then of course I needed to know all of the best activities to do when there and all of the MUST SEE attractions. I would follow with a thorough week or month-long dig through TripAdviser or travel blogs all to assure that I plan the BEST trip possible! I didnt want to miss a THING– its all about making the most of my time there right?!
What would happen is that I would go SEE-SEE-SEE, DO-DO-DO then return home EXHAUSTED and a little bit empty.
Sure I could check a new destination off of my check list and take part in sophisticated conversations about the layout of of the Louvre in Paris or the sound of chanting from ancient temples. . . but then it hit me.
All of this, FOR WHAT?
I had a moment of realization when our plans went wrong last year in Sri Lanka (here) where missing our most sought after attraction led us to the best day of our trip. Not because we were in a make it work moment and it all came together perfectly or because we wouldn’t have liked the attraction but simply because all of our plans were stripped away and we got to choose (in a town with no real attractions) what in the world we wanted to spend our time doing. What we wanted to do with our time.
When is the last time you went on a trip, not to see or do something you read/heard about but literally just to do what you love while there? Planning a trip based on the activities that you enjoy the most instead of based on hitting each and every of the top 10 attractions.
I was listening to a book on tape (yes I am a audio book loser) about a woman who started planning fun into her daily life. Not “fun” like go and spend a bunch of money go-kart racing because that’s what “fun” is, but just daily time sitting and reading.. or playing ping-pong or even doing nothing but listening to music, simple things. I thought it was strange that she hadn’t been having fun all along, Z and I spend most of our evenings playing Wii Mario Kart and fun is literally a part of our daily life but when she branched into travel it struck me. She talked about making time to sit and playing cards in Paris because that is what her family loves to do or going for a simple walk with no particular destination but to hear the sounds an sniff up the smells of the place.
How simplistically serene.
Why did my vacations never include Mario Kart? Lol Just kididng– but really, who says that in NYC you have to see “Top of the Rock” or in Austria visiting the salt mines is a must? (Two of the most boring attractions I have ever seen on trips but did because people said that I just had to) Don’t get me wrong, the salt mines are incredible, and top of the rock too but just not for me in particular, maybe I would have enjoyed spending more of that time in central park instead or doing a hill slide in Austria. It was as if I was traveling on a perfectly planned vacation for someone else.
I think that travel should be all about fitting your own personal interests and idea fun into a place where you can go and do those things, all trip long! Forget about sticking strictly to TripAdvisor “Top 10 Attractions” or friends suggestions or anything else and do exactly what it is that fills YOU up. No one else will know what it is that fills your heart the same as you do. If you don’t know what it is that fills you up, maybe it is time you start spending more time with yourself. I think the best friend we should all have is A. Jesus B. Ourselves. Once we figure ourselves out, life opens up. We are no longer constrained to tour guides with set itineraries but know what to plan to suit ourselves. Maybe the Louvre is less about trying to see it all and more about picking a favorite area or piece of art and spending time there. Just like the Islamic Museum of Art for me is all about getting some coffee and sitting in awe of I.M. Pei’s incredible design instead of spending three seconds looking at each artifact.
This way, travel is no longer a to-do list that leaves us secretly bored and seriously tried, it is a time of going and having the most fun possible, even if that mean having a “stay-cation”. It should fill us up to the point where we could literally burst with excitement and joy, regardless of jet lag and weird hotel pillows. When travel is done this way, we can’t even feel the discomfort of lugging around a bag because the glow of pure joy radiates from every cell.
Travel not to do, but to experience, smell, see and taste.
Travel with your whole heart and whole body.
So when you come back from China and get a strange look from everyone you know for skipping the Great Wall to spend all of your time in “Escape Rooms” and book stores, just know that when it comes to travel, your finally doing it right.