Live or travel: quality versus quantity in adventure

Posted by Christopher Wink on Nov 17, 2008 in Travel Tips |

It becomes a question of quality of stay or quantity of stops.

Do you want to join the Peace Corps or study abroad or use any of the other of wonderful ways that give you a chance at an extended stay in a single place. That’s how you come to know a foreign place intimately.

Or, do you want to see as many of the world’s great sights as you can in the time and with the money you have? That’s how come to visit the thousands of famous spots and locations we know.

Much goes into the decision, what kind of traveler you want to be, what you want to learn, and what you’re willing to sacrifice.

After this trip I have even more thoughts on the matter.

I spent a summer studying at the University of Ghana in West Africa. I studied abroad in Tokyo for a semester, too. Even my shorter international experiences before this backpacking trip had the sense of singular focus - a couple weeks in eastern China and a week in Italy and one in Tijuana, Mexico. While I was moving and they were certainly brief, they were within one country.

In the case of Ghana, I had a couple months to take on the capital of a leading West African nation. I still left conflicted and lost. I had six months in the largest city of Japan. I still probably took more from an interview I did with famed author and film critic Donald Richie than my day-to-day experiences.

As I mentioned in a post last week, I’ve lived in Philadelphia for four years. There are worlds of that aged metropolis I haven’t discovered, and I know it. I hope you know that, too. Don’t confuse visiting with coming to understand.

So, will you take a month or a few, year or more to live in a single place and begin the process of coming to know it? Or will see as much as you can in as little time as you have?

Many haggard travelers will criticize the latter, the jetsetting, so often attributed to careless, disinterested Americans. I think that’s unfair.

I say that as long as you understand a few days in a city isn’t enough to know that city, and certainly isn’t enough to know much of anything about the country, it’s fine. We spent six weeks traveling Europe and never spent more than five days in a single place. I saw some amazing sights, ate some delicious foods and met some great people, but I leave it at that. I can speak for my experiences, but won’t go beyond that.

If you are willing to give up the ability of sensibly speaking with any authority on a subject, then jetset, and see as much as you can.

If you are willing to give up seeing more than a country’s or a region’s worth of sights and sounds, then hunker down, learn a language, meet a people and come to begin to know a culture.

There’s great rewards in both, so I’d say try both methods at times in your life. But which will be your first?

T-Shirt from Fashionista.



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