There is no shortage of travel media. A million writers, marketers, and eternally-aspirational “influencers” are desperate for your ear, while a litany of airlines, trainlines, and cruiselines are more than happy to take you there. Every year there is a new place that “you simply must go”, it’s “transformative”. Places that remain untouched. Places that are now safe to go. Places that are exciting or sandy or have the best seafood you’ve ever had. All desperate to tell you where to go, where you have to go.
It’s all very stupid. Not because you shouldn’t travel, quite the contrary. No, it’s all stupid because there are more places to go than you’ll have months on this earth. There are so many interesting, wonderful places to go, most of which you’ve never been to and never will. You really don’t need that much advice. You just need to go to as many places as you can, which means economizing on your limited resources, which are invariably time and money.
We’re all getting vaccinated and it’s time to get outta here. So where do I think you should go? I have no idea, but here is how I travel:
- I write a list of places I/we want to go. It has to be at least 15-20 deep and I try to update it twice a year.
- I try to identify pockets of time when we can travel months in advance, the bigger the window, the better.
- When its time to book a trip, I just start googling airfare for places on the list and write down numbers.
- Whatever is currently the best price opportunity (not just the cheapest) we go and then cross it off the list when we get back. This is a fuzzy “within-destination” estimation. Nashville is always going to be cheaper than Paris, but if Paris is $400 cheaper than the last few times we looked, then that’s a better choice than Nashville at half the price.
That’s the search protocol. Then there is the single most important rule: Never pay for something that you don’t want. This is essentially an “off-season” rule.
- Only go to places with beaches in the winter if you don’t want to actually sit in the sand all week.
- Only go to the mountains in the summer, unless you plan on skiing everyday.
- Avoid large American cities around major holidays.
- Avoid ALL large cities around New Years.
- Avoid anywhere hosting an All-Star Game, Super Bowl, etc. Same goes for Kentucky during the major horse races unless you have a ticket.
- I’d say avoid Spring Break and Beach Week destinations, but is that seriously something you’d even consider? Please.
Simple rules once you are there.
- Find a hotel/airbnb walking distance from public transportation.
- Walk everywhere you can.
- Walk everywhere you intend to drink alcohol.
- Eat most meals standing up, sitting outside, or at the bar.
- Don’t spread your food budget evenly. It’s better to have one super expensive meal and 13 meals at trailers, trucks, and kiosks.
- Go to a local sporting event
- Go to the library
- Go to bookstores and junk stores, even antique stores, but never knick knack stores. Intentionally adorable is not the same thing as quirky or idiosyncratic.
- Drink what the locals are drinking.
- Find something they make there, maybe tour a factory or brewery or lavender field.
- If there is a major university, see if they have a History PhD program. If they do, see if there are students who will give you a walking tour for cash. I’ve done this twice and it was awesome. Don’t do this in Rome, the student will be arrested and fined.
- Find the art they care about that tourists don’t. Opera, theater, symphony, spoken word. If it sucks leave at intermission.
- Most tourist traps are traps but sometimes they are the Blue Lagoon hot springs in Iceland and you should actually go.
- Keep walking. Bring good socks and shoes, maybe a couple knee sleeves. Advil. Hydrate.
I don’t know where you should go, just go. You can probably still get a reasonable flight to Toronto or Berlin or Greenville and you should just go.