Oh, the Places You'll Skip
It’s a curious but well-known phenomenon among travelers that once you’ve been presented with a list of must-sees in the district, you feel almost honor-bound to pay each one of them a visit. Even if you’d never heard of, say, The Erratic Boulder of České Budějovice in the Czech Republic, suddenly you have the uncomfortable sensation that you’re letting down not only yourself but all of touristkind if you don’t go and pay homage to it.
What’s The Erratic Boulder, you ask? A stone that marks the former site of a hangman’s scaffold; according to legend, if you pass over it after ten o’clock at night, you’ll be wandering the streets until dawn, unable to find your way home. It’s far from the most exciting monument in Europe, in the Czech Republic, or even in České Budějovice. But I am still faintly annoyed with myself for missing the chance to pass over it after ten and see whether I could make it safely back to my hotel.
However, as last summer’s three-month train trip progressed, Rich and I became increasingly cavalier about neglecting monuments both great and small. In fact, we began to take pleasure in blowing off must-sees wherever we went. In Salzburg alone, we ignored Mozart’s birthplace, the castle, the cathedral, the palace of the Prince-Archbishops, various abbeys and churches, and Schloss Klessheim, a Baroque palace (now a casino) where Hitler used to hang out with Mussolini. We also skipped Prague’s Gates of Hell (said to be the actual entrance to Netherworld), Krakow’s famous salt mines, and all of the vampire graves in Transylvania.
Instead, we reveled in the delightful sensation of being completely free to structure our days however we chose, consulting our preferences and whims rather than Wikitravel’s lists. We spent days simply wandering city streets, stopping at sidewalk cafés to sip espresso and watch that particular corner of the world offer itself to our interested gazes. We felt extraordinarily rich in that rarest of commodities: time.
It was in Veliko Tarnovo, the old capital of Bulgaria, that I first heard the expressions “time rich” and “time poor” from an Australian who’d been on the road half a year. “Most people feel time poor,” he said one night over some eye-watering Romanian brandy. “They have the idea they have to jam as much as possible into each day because there are so few hours available to them. Doing less opens up your day. You realize that you really are time rich. It’s true luxury.”
Ever since that conversation, I have been attempting to embrace a “time rich” attitude. It isn’t easy. At the moment, I’m blogging, writing another book, corresponding with friends all over the world, staying active on social media, itching to get back to a neglected painting, expecting a houseguest, hosting three events in the next three days, and heading out soon to California – where my schedule looks even busier. However (pause for a deep breath) there are 8534 hours left in 2014. I will accomplish everything that’s really important to me, and let go of tasks that, like seeing The Erratic Boulder of České Budějovice, aren’t really crucial to my happiness.
A friend once told me about a woman she knew who liked to go on holiday but hated to make arrangements, preferring to tag along on trips others had organized. “A lot of the time she didn’t even know what country she was in. For her, travel was just moving from one pub to another. ”
I was rather cheered by this disclosure. Judged against this low bar, I am not doing too badly. I may not visit every must-see in Fodor’s, but I always know what country I’m in, and on a good day, I remember that I have all the time I need to enjoy it.
In keeping with my new policy of not trying to cram in absolutely everything, I want to let you know that I may not be posting on this blog next week, as I'll be on the road. I'll be back with you as soon as time permits.
1/9/2014 08:43:02 am
You two are rebels!
1/10/2014 09:31:59 am
We try, Nancy, we try!
1/9/2014 09:48:58 am
Confirming idea. I find myself doing the same but it was unconscious decision that came with age and the realization that I couldn't see it all anyway, often didn't really care if I saw it or not, so would see only what really pinged my interest at the moment. Those sidewalk cafes and people watching are always entertaining.
1/10/2014 09:36:33 am
Yes, it started unconsciously with us as well. But eventually we realized how much more time we were spending relaxing and people watching – and how much more we were enjoying it. Thanks, Jackie, for confirming that you guys do it too!
1/9/2014 10:45:03 am
Traveling or not, some of us simply are love slaves to our inner muses.
1/10/2014 09:42:53 am
Love the image of your inner muse as a dominatrix, Alicia! Mine has similar tendencies all too often. The trick seems to be finding the right balance between productivity and leisure – which is difficult to do, different for everybody, and keeps changing with time and circumstances.
1/11/2014 01:44:02 pm
I enjoy how you start your articles writing about travel and end up writing philosophy. Totally unlike those cheery travel articles listing the places you "must see." My kinda girl!
1/9/2014 12:31:34 pm
Loved this post as it describes our way of travel as well. I drive people nuts when I write that we 'go where the wind blows us' and often don't make reservations in advance. Their looks are somewhere between incredulous and worried. And I love the 'time rich' and 'time poor' concept; reminded me of an article the other day about technology that said some people have become so 'app enabled' that they were actually 'app dependent' - some to the point they couldn't find their way around if the map app gave out!
1/10/2014 09:51:03 am
Yes, a lot of our friends find the idea of spontaneous travel deeply worrying. I keep explaining that the worst case scenario is likely to be paying slightly too much for a boring hotel room – not sleeping on a park bench in the rain!
1/9/2014 02:55:59 pm
it is really the best way to travel................nice to see the "time rich" defined and used by "the pros".......................from the sidelines, watching and agreeing............and always enjoy your advice and seasoned point of view.........
1/10/2014 09:54:04 am
Good to hear from you, Frank! Yes, the whole "time rich" concept is wonderful... occasionally I lose hold of it and become all frantic about getting things done, but I find that if I recline on the sofa and take a siesta, the feeling passes...
1/11/2014 11:54:07 am
This. 1000x this. Being "time rich" is so much more rewarding. We never - ever - try to see it all. The fact is, you can't see it all. You can't and you never will. So, why bother? Why not just enjoy what you do see and relax a bit? Over the past few years, we've tried to teach this to my folks whenever they travel or come visit us wherever we're living. While our personal preference is to sit in a lot of cafés, drink a lot of coffee, eat a lot of food, and watch a lot of people, we know that's not for everyone. But the point for us is not about getting everyone to sit in a café all day. It's about getting people to understand that their time is more valuable than making a list and having to see it all in their short time somewhere. Even if they do that, they still won't have scratched the surface. It's a pointless proposition. Just relax, say we!
1/12/2014 12:37:50 am
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Ryan! Nice to have you guys with us in the "Oh, let's skip it!" movement.
1/12/2014 08:47:17 am
Anytime! It's the least we can do. :)
1/12/2014 11:44:01 am
Love this! Especially the cavalier attitude, "we began to take pleasure in blowing off the must-sees wherever we went!" We like to travel this way as well- we figure we'll wear ourselves out if we don't, and enjoy everything we see even less. Better to put more on our "When We Come Back" list! Thank you!
1/12/2014 11:42:24 pm
You're so right, Sarah; it's much better to view it as expanding the "When We Come Back" list. That way, it's not something you missed, it's something to look forward to!
1/12/2014 05:27:43 pm
I love the idea of "time rich"
1/12/2014 11:46:20 pm
Yes, the whole "time rich" concept has been huge for me. It perfectly defines the one part of the situation that you have the best shot at controlling: your own attitude. I haven't completely mastered it yet, but hey, I've got all the time in the world to work on it...
10/16/2014 09:53:58 am
Perfection! We have been trying for years to slow down. We finally got there this year with one entire month in Paris. Some days we didn't get more than a block or two from our apartment and saw nothing except the characters in the Place de Vosges. We keep a daily journal which included the "Couple of the Day" and another celebrating the "T-Shirt of the Day" all contestants found by sitting in a brassiere and paying attention. We drove around France for another 3 weeks without a GPS or hotel reservations! It was Glorious!
Karen K McCann
10/16/2014 10:42:17 am
Yes, doing less is definitely more fun! I love you idea of the journal noting the couple of the day and t-shirt of the day. I'll bet you saw some doozies!
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TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
Wanderlust has taken me to more than 60 countries. Every week I provide travel tips and adventure stories to inspire your journeys and let you have more fun — and better food — on the road
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