Whenever you travel, there’s always pressure to see the expected sights. It could be self-imposed or come from all those people who hear about your trip and exclaim, “You have to go see (insert popular tourist attraction)!” But it’s always there, looming, threatening to cast a cloud over your trip if you let it.
The two most important words in that sentence are “YOUR TRIP”. If you can’t wait to stroll along the Champs-Elysée but the thought of waiting in line for an art museum bores you to tears, then skip the Louvre. You have my permission. I’m a firm believer in judgment-free travel. You should spend your precious hours doing things that you want to do. If you truly don’t care about that #1 guidebook must-see or are seeing something just because you feel like you’re supposed to, you’ll probably regret the time you spent there and resent all the people you listened to.
It took me a while to be okay with this. I think it happened sometime in Italy, when I was standing in what felt like my 1,000th museum, looking at my watch and craving some gelato. I felt guilty that I wasn’t standing in awe, appreciating the masterpieces that I was lucky enough to be seeing in person.
It was a case of too much of a good thing, and after countless museum visits throughout 5 other countries, I just couldn’t take another one. I was officially museum-ed out, and I finally gave myself permission to skip the must-sees. I wasn’t really seeing them, I didn’t want to be there and I wasn’t happy. I was just checking off places from my to-do list.
So I left the galleries to the fresh tourists and art buffs, and strolled around alleys with brightly colored flags strung between windows, high in the sky. I wandered away from guidebook Italy and discovered my own Rome.
Now, while I 100% believe that you should do whatever floats your particular boat and skip whatever doesn’t, I do think you should ponder escaping from your comfort zone every once in a while. I always ask myself things like, “Will I ever be here again? Is this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Will I regret not seeing/doing this?”
If the answer leads me to consider doing it, I usually will. That’s how I found myself on top of an Alp, on a pub crawl with strangers in Rome and on an epically long bus ride to Northern Ireland. There were no museums involved, and I loved every second.
What’s your deep, dark travel secret?
Image by Matt Banks via freedigitalphotos.net