Why do we travel? It’s a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Especially now that it’s June, traditionally the busiest month for visitors in Paris. Why do we travel to foreign countries? Why do we explore new cities and towns? And perhaps more importantly, what do we hope to get out of these experiences? Of course, everyone is going to have different answers to these questions. But as I said, I’ve been thinking about these questions a lot lately, so I thought I would share some of my answers. Hopefully you find them insightful as you plan your next big trip.
What Are Your Travel Goals?
I’ll bet you thought that when answering the question, “Why do we travel?”, I would start with the classic cliché about how travel can broaden your horizons. And to be clear, this is a cliché for a reason, because it’s true. Travelling is an incredible way to get outside of your comfort zone, discover new cultures, and learn about lifestyles and lived experiences that are wildly different from your own. At its best, travel is an amazing way to foster empathy across cultures; something the world as a whole desperately needs more of. However, for today’s purposes, I’m thinking less on the macro level and more on the personal. As in, why did I choose to come to this particular country or city? In other words, what are my travel goals?
For me, my travel goals have always revolved around history. What are the main historical events that have taken place here? How have these events shaped this designation into the place that it is today? And what are the stories of the people who have lived here over the centuries? As a result, I often choose my travel destinations based on what I’m going to learn. But that’s just me. I know plenty of people who choose their travel based on what they’re going to eat. Others choose their travel based on how much they are going to relax. And all of this is perfectly fine. Everyone will have different travel goals, and that’s okay. But it is important to know what your goals are before you start the planning process. It will make everything so much easier and more enjoyable.
The Art of Itineraries
Once you have your travel goals, the planning process can begin. For me, deciding on my itinerary is one of the best parts of travelling. It gives you the freedom to consider all of the possibilities before choosing what’s most important to you, all while building up the excitement and anticipation of your trip. That being said, it’s also very easy to overbook yourself when there’s so many amazing options to choose from. I know firsthand how tempting it can be to try and cram as many experiences and destinations into your trip as possible, but it’s important to know your limits and schedule some downtime along the way. It won’t matter if you’re in the most incredible place in the world if you’re too tired to enjoy it.
There’s No Wrong Way To Travel
Of course, I’m not suggesting that you can do whatever you want when you travel. You have to be respectful, and you should always take care to abide by local laws and customs. Beyond this, however, you should feel free to plan your trip the way you want it. It doesn’t matter if the city you’re visiting is home to the most famous statue in the world. If that statue doesn’t interest you, don’t waste time going to see it. One of the most common questions I get asked on my tours is, “Is X worth seeing?” And my answer is always the same. If it means something to you, it’s worth seeing. And if not, go ahead and skip it. Contrary to popular opinion, it is actually okay to come to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower or the Mona Lisa.
I must admit that this is where I struggle the most to follow through on. I often find myself in a new city making a list of things that I should see rather than things I want to see. And I often feel guilty for being tired and needing a night in at the hotel. But then I just remind myself that this is my trip, and if I want to stay in watching Netflix one night so that I’m not too tired to enjoy tomorrow’s adventures, that’s okay. It’s my holiday, and I can do what I want. And the same goes for everyone. Don’t feel guilty about not doing or seeing everything when you travel. Do and see the things that are important to you and just enjoy yourself. There’s no wrong way to travel.
This Is Why We Travel
Travelling can be an incredible experience. And whatever your goals are and however you choose to spend your time, I hope that you have an amazing time. And if you are visiting Paris in the coming months, I hope that the weather behaves and that the strikes are minimal. But most importantly, I hope you return home with stories and adventures that make you smile and think to yourself, “This is why we travel.”
One final note, in case you were wondering. The photo above is the famous Peeing Boy statue in Iya Valley, Japan. Which was not at all what I expected to find in one of the most remote places in that country, and it made me laugh like a hyena. I love travelling.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.