3 Merits of Rapid Travel

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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.

Enjoying the canals throughout Amsterdam.
Enjoying the canals throughout Amsterdam.

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.

Ready for our bus departure at 11:30
Ready for our bus departure at 11:30

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.

Loving the train ride as much as any other activity.
Loving the train ride as much as any other activity.

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.

Target practice at Het Drielandenpunt, near Vaals
Target practice at Het Drielandenpunt, near Vaals

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.

Both pleasant and lively, the university town of Maastricht really appealed to me.
Both pleasant and lively, the university town of Maastricht really appealed to me.

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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4 thoughts on “3 Merits of Rapid Travel”

  1. You won me over with the title!

    I don’t bother to listen to people who hang out all day at tourist hangout bars getting the vibe of their drink and other tourists on their phones. I am out and about doing as much as I can in my limited time.

    1. @Rapid Travel Chai, I can completely identify with you! Even when I “slow travel”, my take is simply to stay put in 1 place for an extended time to see and do 25 things there instead of the 5 highlights. I’m still not hanging around and drinking the way so many other tourists are.

  2. Hi Becky, I recently found your blog. I’m a fellow Virginian!

    Especially when you have limited travel time and vacation days per year, it’s always a decision of which destinations to cut out and what to cram in.

    Probably the biggest downside to me that you touched on is the time taken for transportation. I love a good train ride for overland scenery, but it’s easy to let time slip away with wait times, navigating to/from stations and airports, orienting yourself to a new city map, checking into your overnight stay, etc. So in my case I generally prefer to limit the number of destinations.

    1. @Natalie, I’ve found that logistics time can vary wildly by location – things like train rides in Europe can be super fast and punctual while bus rides in Central America are slow and often delayed. Similarly, checking into a chain hotel in a major US city can be done in 5 minutes or less while it often took me 45 minutes at Moroccan hotels. I try to arrange my plans accordingly if I know it will take longer to take care of business!

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