If you’re like me when you travel, you’re eager to see all that you can in a short period of time. It makes sense why you might think this way. You probably want to make the most of an experience that you’re not sure you’ll have the opportunity to get again.
On extended trips, I have often moved from city to city at a frenetic pace. When I backpacked through Europe earlier this year, I went to 10 countries in a little over a month (12 if you count a layover in Madrid and going to the Vatican). I had originally planned on staying in Europe for a few months, but I burnt myself out and burnt through my money. In the first 10 days I went from NY to Norway to Stockholm to Copenhagen to Berlin to Edinburgh.
My most vivid memory of those ten days is tripping and eating s*** coming down Arthur’s Seat in muddy weather. I walked a few miles back to my hostel completely covered in dirt and I learned never to hike in Allbirds again.
After that part of the trip I slowed down, but not enough. If it weren’t for hundreds of pictures, I’m not sure how many memories I would have because of how quick the pace was. Don’t get me wrong, it was an incredible experience, but I had the wrong mindset going in. If I had stuck to thoroughly exploring a few countries, instead of shuffling from city to city, I would have been more relaxed and able to deal with a few months on the road.
Not to mention, the biggest travel expense is transit. Yes, intra European flights are relatively cheap, but it definitely adds up when you’re traveling every 2 or 3 days. Also, don’t underestimate the time you’ll spend going to and from airports or train stations. Having to pack up and unpack also gets to be a nuisance after a while.
Traveling Slowly Gives you Peace of Mind
There will be more opportunities to go back to Europe, or wherever, another time, especially if you are young. In my experience, it’s way nicer to see one place over a week’s time than two or three in the same timespan. You won’t get to know any of them as much as you’d like if you do the latter. You might only be able to see the biggest tourist attractions and not explore more thoroughly.
My best experiences in Europe were in London and Paris, where I intentionally gave myself more days than I needed because they were such big cities. But, I should have done the same for everywhere I went. The cities I came away with ambivalent feelings about were, not coincidentally, the ones I spent the least time in. Two days in both Copenhagen and Stockholm seems ridiculous in hindsight.
Having to hit a bunch of different attractions in a short time to check off of your list is not enjoyable, at least for me. This may sound ridiculous or ungrateful, but vacations start to become a chore when you structure them too much. This is why I at least didn’t plan my Europe trip too far ahead. But, I still ended up trying to do too much.
When you take travel guides and review websites too seriously, it can leave you going from one attraction to the next without spontaneity. It almost becomes a game you can’t possibly win, because you’ll never see be able to see everything on the list.
It’s great to wander down side streets and find places that aren’t on guides. It’s 100% ok to sit at a cafe or a park for a few hours and people watch. Don’t feel pressured to have to do everything, or even anything in a city. It is your vacation after all.
Traveling Slowly is a Good Way to Save Money
The biggest expense that you’ll save on is flights. Somehow, during my trip, I managed to spend almost $35 more on a Norway to Sweden flight than I did flying to Norway from the US. Granted, the first flight was $99. But, spending even $50 to go somewhere else two days after you arrive at a destination adds up.
If you’re going on a two month backpacking trip and pack up every 3 days, you’ll have 20 days in transit that you could be using to relax or see more in the city you’re already in. Let’s say your flights/trains average out to $40 every time you go somewhere. If you cut your travel days in half to 10 days out of 60 you’d save $400.
You might end up spending less on attractions this way as well. Suppose you had three paid attractions you wanted to visit in London and three in Paris. If you spend 6 days in each city, versus 3, you’ll spread them out instead of visiting one each day.
It’s also important to note that a lot of Airbnbs give weekly and monthly price discounts. So, on top of not spending more on flights/trains you might be able to save on your accommodation if you travel slower.
Go at a pace that makes sense for you
Some people might thrive on spending a couple days in a city, packing up and moving to the next one. It is thrilling to be able to see so much in a short period of time, but it can be incredibly exhausting.
Before you plan a long backpacking trip, be honest with yourself about what you are capable of/enjoy doing. If you’re questioning whether your itinerary has too much packed into it, it probably does. I’m still trying to get myself out of the mindset of needing to see everything, but I think the benefits of doing so are clear.
Watch out for Part six of the $150 Getaway Challenge coming soon.