What if you built in time to travel somewhere random? Here’s why you should!
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Non-touristy destinations offer just as much as those to epic destinations! Whether they’re local or abroad, trips to off-the-beaten-path locations are always a good idea.
When planning how to use our precious vacation days, there’s often a temptation to cram in as much as possible. It’s why many Americans visiting Europe try to cram 5 countries into 10 days. The reverse is true as well: Italians will spend two weeks in the US with an itinerary of NYC, Miami, and San Francisco. I’m not making that up – I know someone who did it, and he’s not the only one.
The reality is that trips like that, while fun, typically leave you more exhausted than rejuvenated. And most of us desperately need more space to slow down.
Travel somewhere random can mean a random destination or it can mean the middle of nowhere. Both have advantages!
One thing living in Italy has taught me is that there are so many tiny towns that are full of architecture, beauty, nature and amazing food that would never make my itinerary if I didn’t live here. I hear about them by asking locals, searching Instagram hashtags, or just picking a spot on the map.
The trick is being open to the ways that these kinds of experiences can shape us. If I’m going in expecting one narrow definition for the trip, I miss the joys of having the time to read that book or play games with my family. There’s something lovely when the only thing on the itinerary for the day is to walk down main street or watch the sunset.
These experiences give us space to process, to breathe. Its scientifically proven to open us up for greater creativity and critical thinking, meaning we’ll function better at our roles when we return.
What if, on your next trip, you built in time to travel somewhere random?
Before the insanity of 2020, I visited Constanta, a coastal city in Romania. In the summer it’s a beach destination, but my trip happened in the dead of winter.
I’m not quite sure how to articulate my experience here. I was clearly visiting in the off-season. Most of the museums were closed. The open one literally turned the lights off and on for me as I explored the different rooms. A funny experience to say the least.
I speak no Romanian. In restaurants, staff tended to speak at least enough English to make myself understood, but at museums and churches it was all Romanian or Turkish. Luckily Italian has enough overlap that we were able to figure out the basics. Everyone was lovely to me, but it was a funny experience being clearly the only tourist in the city at that time and being a non-Romanian speaker at that.
Most visitors to Constanta head to the resorts, just out of town. Maybe they’ll spend a day in the city or come in for dinner. It doesn’t feel like a resort town. I’ve definitely done resort towns in places like Mexico and loved them, so I mean no judgment. Just interesting to observe.
The irony is that Constanta is absolutely packed with history. The city was originally a Greek outpost and has a storied history within the Roman Empire. It also has some of that faded glamour from its tourism heyday: a wide boardwalk with elegant streetlights, and a formerly gorgeous casino overlooking the sea.
My point of telling this story is simple: sometimes, we need the kind of vacation where there aren’t many historic sites or tourist attractions. To rest and recharge, it’s good to both vacate our lives and our to-do lists.
My time in Constanta is the biggest example recently. But I’ve done it with day trips in rural Oklahoma, solo outings near my hometown, or 15 minutes from my apartment now. The trick is to pick a spot and just go.
To American ears, I get that it sounds bonkers to travel halfway around the world for this experience. Odds are, you can find that kind of vacation close to home.
For example, the North Carolina coastline doesn’t offer much in terms of resorts, extreme sports, or “action.” It’s where we went for a week to swim in the ocean, play board games with the family, and generally relax and recharge. But I’ve only posted about NC beach locations twice (Corolla and Wrightsville Beach). You could have a similar type of experience hanging out by a lake or holing up in a cabin.
This has been a bit meandering, but my point is this: there is value in making space – in our brains, in our calendars, and in our lives – for travel somewhere ranom. It stretches our capacity to understand the world around us and to understand ourselves.
The next time you plan a trip, I hope you give yourself time to travel somewhere random for a day or two!
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