Travel in depth, not in breadth

This comes up often when planning trips and over this past week I have thought about it some more while traveling around the area with an American friend. I would like to argue for focusing on depth in travels, as opposed to simply maximizing the number of cities visited (though the latter would improve my map).

There are two general reasons that I like to choose a home base and spend time exploring a single region (travel in depth) rather than superficially seeing many regions.

  • I minimize overhead. One could argue that time spent in the car or on a train is still time spent sightseeing, but these activities have additional costs beyond the actual travel time. Every time I take the train, I must price options, book tickets, and possibly pick up the tickets. If there is a problem, such as a missed connection, I have to spend time and possibly money to fix it, often using limited resources on the road instead of from the comfort of my home internet connection. I will also need accommodations in every city I choose to stay the night. This means that my schedule is dictated by check in/out times. I also will need to find the place, and possibly parking, in a new city. I will have to deal with problems like, say, if the safe in my new room doesn’t work or if I need to figure out the internet options. In fact, internet is often unnecessary if I avoid moving around. If I have a home base in a single place, from which I depart for day trips, I minimize much of this overhead.
  • I get to see, in my opinion, more interesting things. Yes, I generally do go to major tourist attractions when I am in a city. But if you are only in a place for one or two days, that may be all you get to see. It takes longer to really learn about a place. When I visit a city, I want to have interesting stories and notes to compare, not just the same old points of interest.

So go forth and properly explore the cities you visit. Of course trips will always be limited—Tiffany and I often make a one-night stop in a city—but consider staying for a few days when possible, rather than skipping around a country. You will save money and reduce stress while making better use of your time. Unfortunately Americans often optimize for map completion rather than experiences.

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