There’s a travel question that I think gets bandied about far too often, from social media to travel articles to the emails we are lucky enough to receive from readers, and it goes something like this: “I have (insert number of days) to spend in (insert destination), is that enough?”
I’ll be perfectly honest: I hate this question.
The answer is, and always will be as far as I’m concerned: the perfect amount of time to explore a destination is the amount of time that you have available.
Sometimes you have the time to go backpacking through Central America or house sitting in Europe… and sometimes, time is of the essence.
True, there are some practical limitations with this. Crossing an ocean for a three day weekend, for example, is a quest best left to those who have both too much money and too little respect for sleep.
There are also occasionally people (usually young and/or inexperienced travelers, usually from a continent different from the one they’re traveling to), who attempt to plan insane itineraries that go something like “I have five days in Europe, so I’ll spend one day in each London, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Budapest”, which is a problem, frankly, that will usually sort itself out the moment flight/bus/train times are estimated.
Also, for the sake of honesty, I feel that I should admit that I once plotted an itinerary through Europe that was almost that bad. I was also 17 years old and had never left the USA before. Live and learn.
Outside of extreme situations, though, I feel that this sort of question often comes from a place of intimidation from fellow travelers.
You know the lines I’m talking about–they always sound a little something like this: “Well, I mean, it’s nice that you went, but you haven’t really seen Mexico until you’ve hitchhiked alone through the entire country, with most of your time spent in cartel-heavy areas, while teaching yourself Spanish to fluency along the way.”
Those people are assholes. Ignore those people.
The question that you really need to be asking yourself is if the amount of time you have available is enough to meet enough of your goals that you personally feel it’s worth the time, cost, and potential jet lag of going.
For crazy travel lovers like Jeremy and I, the answer will almost always be yes.“I’m going to London for business and have three days to go somewhere else. Is that enough time to see Paris?”
Well, I don’t know! Do you want to teach yourself French, see every painting in the Louvre, climb to the top of every monument, take a day trip to Versailles, and eat at 15 specific restaurants while there?
If so, then no, you don’t have enough time.
Are you willing to whittle down your list, get a taste of some parts of Paris, and save the rest for a different trip?
In that case, you definitely have enough time.
Would I always recommend that someone who dreams of seeing Paris and is already going to be as close as London fly from London to Paris for three days if they have the means?
Yes, yes, absolutely yes.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to become an expert in everywhere that you visit.
That’s a lie born of insecurity, FOMO, and too many encounters with travel snobs.
Before Jeremy and I were full-time travelers, we were 9-5-er’s with a desperate desire to travel abroad every chance we got.
In 2014, that took us to Mexico for the first time, where we spent exactly four days staying on Cozumel, with a day trip to Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Did we accomplish everything that we wanted to do in Mexico at that time? Absolutely not: we’ve already returned for a six week trip since then (at the end of which we declared Mexico one of our favorite travel destinations), and expect to visit many more times in the years to come.
Are we incredibly glad that we went? Yes!Not only did we have a blast snorkeling in a cenote, zip lining, admiring iguanas, practicing our Spanish, and exploring the ruins of Tulum, that trip was our third time leaving the USA and another stepping stone to going from never having left our home country to becoming full-time travelers in less than three years.
The “point” of travel, at the end of the day, is exactly what you want it to be.
Whether your goal is to try your hand at a new language, eat new foods, attend a festival or event, see famous landmarks, photograph a gorgeous location, or something completely different, you are not wrong.
If you have the means, opportunity, and desire to visit a place in an amount of time that will allow you to at least partially fulfill whatever personal goals you have–even if that goal is simply to have fun somewhere new–then go. Go, enjoy, and bring home plenty of memories.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll never regret it.