Or, more specifically, why I don’t make only travelling to new countries a priority. But that’s not quite as catchy a title for a blog post. This year, of the eight countries I’ve been to so far, only one was a first time for me (here’s the post on that Marrakech city break) and I’m heading back to Italy next. We’ve all become a bit obsessed with ticking off a bucket list. Putting pressure on ourselves to travel fast in order to have the most impressive numbers (we all read that story about the youngest girl to visit every country in the world). Hands up, I’m guilty of wanting to get to every continent. I wanted to, and did, hit 30 countries before turning 30. Yes, I’ve kept a tally of how many different countries I’ve visited. But recently, I’ve noticed a growing obsession online with ‘how many’, whether it’s naming places, boasting about how many world wonders have been “done” or humble bragging about how few passport pages are left. And frankly, that don’t impress me much.
A lot has changed since I spoke about embarking on a world tour and that’s ok, shit happens. I’m still doing it, just at a slower pace. I’m not in any rush.
Why has going somewhere you’ve already been suddenly become naff? What’s wrong with the familiarity of a place? We go to the same restaurants we know and love at home because we’re guaranteed satisfaction, why wouldn’t you want that with a holiday? Sometimes trips can be exhausting, trying to cram in as much as possible, not wanting to return without a selfie at every single famous landmark, filling your itinerary with the top ten list of things to do in X city on a weekend break. When you revisit an old favourite, your research is already done. You can lie on the beach, FOMO-free, knowing you’re at the best spot. You can book your favourite table in that cute little tapas place where the waiter remembers your name. You can explore new parts of the island you didn’t get around to on your last trip. You can do whatever the hell you like, it’s your holiday.
Or what about going back to a country because of how much more it has to offer you. I can’t exactly cross Morocco off my list now because I spent three days in Marrakech. I haven’t “done” Mexico after chilling in Tulum for a couple of weeks. Thailand certainly isn’t ticked off after a few nights on the Khao San road and a quick jaunt to one or two of the islands. What’s wrong with wanting to return?
Even the exact same holiday will turn up a complete different experience. I retraced my own path along the Pacific Coast Highway on a California road trip earlier this year. Different people, different stops, a very bloody different adventure!
If you’ve “only” been to say five different countries, does that mean you’re not a good traveller? What if you lived in a couple of those, learned the language and spent your time exploring its different regions and culture. It’s weird to make assumptions based on a number.
If I only went to new countries, I’d have missed out on opportunities where I’ve made new friends for life. I’d never have seen the Eiffel Tower, because hey, I’d already been to France! I wouldn’t be going to see Game of Thrones locations in Dubrovnik this summer, because Croatia was ticked off my list a while back. I wouldn’t have experienced Iceland’s 24 hour summer daylight after having already been earlier that year.
Maya Villanueva, founding partner of Roam Travel PR agrees;
This notion of traveling for the passport stamp seems counterintuitive to me; the whole point of travel is to find your own way. Whose idea was it to make travel a competition? Travel should be about leaving the rat race and flipping a middle finger to ‘Keeping up the Jones’ and the status quo. Whether your travels take you back to the same destination once, twice or a hundred times over, you should travel it over and over until you’ve learned all you can learn about the streets, the stories, the people and the place. Because even once you’ve seen and done everything, there is still more to see and do.
Some people are all about #yogaeverydamnday whereas I’m all about #italyeverydamnyear, because I’ll never get enough of stracciatella and wine or sweet old Italian men calling ‘Bella’
Editor of Stellar Magazine, Vicki Notaro, recently went back to America for probably the biggest holiday of her life;
When it came to choosing a honeymoon destination, we could have gone anywhere in the world. But the more I researched far flung destinations, the less convinced I was of going somewhere new. Joe and I go to the States a lot, it’s kind of our thing, and I just wanted to be assured after the madness of our wedding that we’d have the best time ever. So off we went to America yet again, this time to the Napa Valley, San Fran, Vegas and Orlando. We did a lot of stuff we wouldn’t do on a regular trip there, like shelling out for Celine Dion tickets and upgrades to experience top tier living! But look, we got to visit Mount Everest… in Disney’s Animal Kingdom!
Whether it’s going back to recreate an amazing experience, or returning to make new memories, revisiting the same place shouldn’t be looked down on.
While I’m not not going to new countries, this year I’m seeing more of the ones I’ve been to and loved. Everything has become a numbers game, from Insta-followers and likes to countries travelled to. I’m realising my travel journey isn’t for anyone else’s benefit, just like where you choose to go on your holiday shouldn’t be up for public scrutiny.
For the last year or two I’ve been travelling long-haul in search of amazing destinations, food, beaches, sailing etc while neglecting Europe’s understimated offering. Living and growing up in the UK and Ireland, I’ve taken for granted how good we have it. Cheap and easy access across the EU to some of the best coastlines, water, wine, architecture, culture and history on the planet. No year will go by without taking a trip to my second home in Tenerife, I won’t rest until I’ve seen every beach bar in Ibiza (video below of me trying to do just that) and then decided on a favourite to return to. Visits to the Irish countryside will never get old, nor will sailing up to Soggy Dollar bar in the British Virgin Islands. I’ll be back to Thailand, I want to see more of Morocco and those Mexican cenotes and ruins are calling me back to explore more. Once the Iceland hysteria has died down, I’ll be going back to snorkel in the Silfra fjord and I’ll always have time to visit friends in LA, Amsterdam, Bangkok and London.
So that’s why I don’t travel to new countries as a priority. What’s your travel story? Were you impressed with the story of the youngest female to visit every country? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.