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Growing up, almost all of my family vacations were roadtrips. We’d pile in the car and drive a few hours down the road, stopping for the highlights of a city and then moving on to repeat the process the next day. There aren’t many times I can recollect staying somewhere for more than a night or two and so when I started planning my own trips, I followed suit. The pace of switching cities and hotels became part of my travel routine until November, when I experimented with slow travel for the first time and absolutely loved it. I tried to pace things slowly again for every trip after that — Quebec City, Hawaii, Guatemala — and each time it was a wild success.
Then I went to Europe and threw all that out the window. In 11 days, we covered a lot of ground.
Starting in Amsterdam on our own, Mike and I spent a whopping 24 hours in the city, which was barely enough time to cover the stereotypical must-do’s: ride a bike, eat a stroopwafel, wander the red light district, and end up practically stoned just from the wafts of marijuana smoke coming from every coffeeshop in the city.
There’s obviously much more to Amsterdam than those activities, but nothing that appealed to us so much that we felt compelled to plan more time there. I figured we’d go back someday, but you know what? In only 24 hours, I felt confident in my opinion of the city: it’s nice, but it’s not a place I feel compelled to return.
From there, we joined our Competitours trip and started moving at record pace. Even for me, visiting six countries (four with visits, two in transit), twelve cities, and seven hotels is pushing the envelope. We literally traveled by plane, train, bus, or boat to a new city on every single day except one.
In my temporary devotion toward slow travel, I had forgotten how enjoyable rapid travel can be.
Rapid Travel is Invigorating
For most people, I think it’s safe to say that life at home tends to follow a set pattern. You probably follow the same route to work everyday, come home at roughly the same time, and know when your favorite TV show comes on the air. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with routine and I get stressed out when I don’t have one at home, but on vacation, isn’t it fun to mix things up a little?
To anyone who says that spending time in transit between locations can be stressful when traveling, I just think you’re not paying enough attention to what changes along the way. We passed gorgeous scenery, interesting changes in behavior between cultures, and took advantage of numerous opportunities to speak with other travelers and meet new people along the way. All of this kept us energized throughout the trip.
We Did it All
Usually travels following the trend of “if it’s Thursday, it must be Basel” have a bad reputation. Tourists snap a picture of each main site and then move on. Eventually, those places blur into everything else in your memory until you barely remember your vacation. However, people overlook the fact that it’s possible to still partake in activities that will forever solidify those moments into your head, even if you only spend one night there.
Moving around gives you the chance to try a little bit of everything, and that’s exactly what we did. I ate Belgian waffles on the street, homemade pasta at Italian trattorias, and Swiss fondue in Andermatt. We overlooked the Mediterranean Sea, the Alps, and medieval town centers. I failed at hedge mazes and succeeded at folk dancing. I wouldn’t be able to do half of that if I stayed in one place.
We Discovered Where to Return
One of the reasons I’ve always liked cruises is specifically because you get one day in a location to check it out. It’s like a trial run, where you can’t go wrong: every destination in the world can be interesting for a one-day period and first impressions can tell you a lot about whether or not it’ll turn out a good fit for a longer visit.
Rapid travel through Europe is much the same because it’s so easy to get around. We discovered some new places that I really, really loved and hope to go back to and a few where our short visit seemed adequate for life. I may not ever return to Venice, but I loved Maastricht despite not knowing anything about it before we went.
Is rapid travel sustainable? Probably not. For trips longer than our 11 days in Europe, I think it’s likely you’d end up exhausted and in need of a real break. On short or moderate-length trips, rapid travel is a pace worth considering, depending on what your goals are. I may love slow travel, but I enjoy rapid travel too.
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Voice your opinion in the comments!
What is your preferred travel pace? Does it change based on your destination?
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