Today’s travelers are no doubt aware of all the gadgets and apps available to make traveling easier (or as it is known today, smarter). However, despite becoming smarter by the day, there are aspects of traveling that still make it stressful. One of them is “Where?”
Picking a place to go involves more forethought today than ever before. Travel no longer means flocking to major European cities for a thorough sightseeing. It’s not just that ease of traveling has made more places available to everyday travelers, but travelers now want more than just fun — we want experiences. We seek out lesser-known places to visit and the hidden gems in the already well-known parts of the world; it is as if, as a culture, we have become increasingly more averse to the all-inclusive-resort experience and inclined toward the niche, the authentic.
Even though you can get from point A to point B anywhere on the map faster and smarter than ever before, the sheer number of places to visit seems to have increased drastically; the whole world is our amusement park and we have a happy, though sometimes daunting, problem of choosing which ride to go on. This inevitably expands the question of Where to incorporate the questions of With Whom, How, and Why.
An anecdote: I was in Paris a few years ago. I was by myself and on a budget, but I was armed with the determination to make the most of this precious time and the affable will to walk around endlessly. I skipped the Versailles and the museums and got on board with a small group of people on a walking tour of the Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement. There I did what any sensible person would or cannot help but do in Paris: I daydreamed and was in giddy awe at the idea that I stood at the spot where Van Gogh and Picasso once stood and looked out toward the glitter near the Seine. At the end of the walking tour, my group went together to a small café to have a few drinks, chat, and unwind.
Montmartre is certainly neither a lesser-known spot nor a hidden gem; by any definition, it is a tourist destination. However, the walking tour left an indelible mark on the way I see and think of Paris. The day after the walking tour, I retraced my group’s steps up to Montmartre to revisit the artists’ apartments and their favorite cafes. Perhaps it was because I have always admired Van Gogh and Picasso or, perhaps, it was something in the water —I did a few drawings on the spot, had a cup of tea, but mostly I daydreamed most indulgently.
I do not think it is an entirely false conclusion to say that the question of Where is ultimately secondary. What does it matter to have been in the crowd in Times Square on New Year’s Eve or on the Coast Mountains in British Columbia, if both the LED signs and the Pacific sunset fail to move you indelibly? Best travel destinations allow one to transcend her immediate surroundings.
A Few Good Tips:
Walking tours can be arranged online days beforehand, but we suggest arriving at your destination first. See it on your own first. How else will you know which area you’d like to explore further? Grab a hotel map, bug the receptionist, and walk confidently in the direction that seems the most adventurous.
If walking is not your forte, and you happen to have only a pair of brogues available, catch a cab or request an Uber or Uber alternatives. Blablacar and Hailo offer similar services and are used widely in Europe and Asia; just make sure you check the details before departure.
For food options, Yelp and Tripadvisor are both great but invest time reading up on travel articles. They won’t be as personal as customer reviews, but they will have more insights as to where to go, when, and what to eat once you get there.
Finally, pack a book. Preferably one to parallel your own travels. Maybe one by Paul Theroux or S. J. Perelman. Or if you are going to the Amazon, In Trouble Again by Redmond O’Hanlon. You never know when you are going to need the help of fine prose or poems.
The Ana Banana Team.