OPINION: It’s involuntary and I can’t help it. The head tilts back slightly. The eyes roll skyward. The travel buddy receives a slight elbow in the side or nudge under the table upon us hearing this sage travel advice: “Oh it’s an amazing place, but you really need three weeks there!”
In fact, it’s more a directive than wisdom of a wanderer, as if to imply that only an idiot would attempt to “discover” a destination in a couple of days. And remember, real travellers don’t simply walk, eat, shop or lounge around in new locations like you and I – they discover them.
The most recent fellow tourist to share with us their opinion (as always, unsolicited) was between downpours in St John’s, in Newfoundland Canada. The usual vacationer pleasantries were exchanged – must-do activities, must-do eateries and the inevitable: ” How long you here for?”
We were there for five days. Two city days. Two hinterland days. One travel day. Seemed fine to us. Apparently, it was not fine. Bemusement crossed their faces.
“Yeah, we’re here for almost three weeks. You really need that much to do it properly.” I assumed he was talking about the entire island of Newfoundland, which is only a bit smaller than the North Island.
In that timeframe the couple would have got to the Fjordland-like Grose Morne national park and 1000 year old Viking settlements.
But no, “we’re just doing St John’s, for the whole island you really need much more”. It made me wince. The back of my cranium dug deep in between my shoulder blades.
Yes, by all means, take your time. Wander. Forget the days of the week. Forget your schedule and go with the flow of the locals. Pick fewer places and do them more intensely if you must. Learn the language and the local dishes. Slow travel is a luxury.
But do not tell me the only way to “truly do” (what does that even mean) St John’s, Canada is to spend two weeks in its foggy embrace – even if the lobster is out of this world good.
Yes, certain places warrant more time. I’m not promoting squeezing your Egyptian itinerary or Andean adventure down to a week, just because you could logistically do so, just don’t discount the destination samplers who only want to dip their toes in (for reasons of time, money, leave , effort or commitment issues).
The reason the city break, the spa break, the ski weekend and many others were invented is because certain destinations are small and perfectly formed and easily navigated and digested in 72 hours. And if you get your fix in 36, that’s cool too.
What annoys me most about the broad-brush mantra is that is allows people a free pass to delay travelling to the destinations they’ve spent years dreaming about. All because they heard somewhere that the ideal trip time is far beyond their annual leave and bank balances.
So they delay, defer and instead choose the same easy wins they’ve been to before. I cannot count the number of times I try and convince people who’ve sworn off “isolated but beautiful” New Zealand until they – somehow – have the spare two months to “do it properly” when perhaps a slimmed down itinerary would be both mesmerising and manageable. And will actually happen.
Josh Martin is a London-based Kiwi journalist, who writes about travel, tourism, business, and consumer issues in between trips to places you’d rather be. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a travel issue you’d like him to write about.