The best piece of advice I can give you for traveling (besides DO IT!), is to plan around your passions. Yes, of course there are the big ‘tourist trap’ things everyone has to do like climbing the Eiffel tower or walking the Great Wall of China (seeing these things might actually be your passion), but after you’ve checked off the ‘cannot miss things’ plan your trips around what you enjoy. This seems like an obvious statement but it happens less often than you think. There is a wealth of information nowadays on the internet, and it is so easy to get overwhelmed and have decisions made for you by other people’s advice. However, at the end of the day it’s your time, your money and your memories.
A great example of this is the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. This last spring break my husband and I ventured to Europe again. Because of the wonderful ‘stopover’ program Iclandair now offers, we decided to add 2 days in Iceland to our trip. Before this trip I’d never given much thought to Iceland and knew very little about it. Once I started my research, I was so excited with the amount of activities this country offers and fell in love with Iceland before we even left. If you have done any research on Iceland, or know anything about it (besides that it is green and Greenland is ice), you have probably heard of the Blue Lagoon. It is Iceland’s biggest tourist attraction. It is a geothermal spa (hot springs) in a lava field. The pictures are stunning and the reviews say it absolutely cannot be missed. Even one of my close friends who had just visited said I HAVE to go. I wrestled with the decision for months of whether to put this on our itinerary. On one hand it looked beautiful- people’s advice was convincing and honestly I was worried I would miss out on something amazing if I did not go. On the other hand, it is very expensive and it eats up a lot of time, as it is not near to anything else. So I decided to change my thinking and consider if this was something we were passionate about. The answer was a hard NO. If my husband really wanted to go I would gladly have done it for him. But I actually really don’t like being in the water that much, especially longer than about 20 minutes. I started realizing I was mostly interested in going so I could say I did it and for some good pictures. That for me did not outweigh the fact that it was about $80 a person and I would have to give up half a days time I could spend doing something I actually enjoy. Yes, many people love the Blue Lagoon and would go again, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But they were not on the trip with me. I had to choose what would make me the happiest and I do not regret it for one second.
To be fair, unless you’re traveling alone, you also need to take into consideration the interests of the people traveling with you. If you are traveling with small children do not expect them to be happy spending the entire day at an art museum (even if it is the Louvre). Instead take them to a children’s museum or a zoo. My step-dad’s passion is cars, so my mom always tries to add in car museums wherever they go. My husband’s passion is music, so I intentionally track down music museums or exhibits for him. Even if it is not my passion (although you can still learn and enjoy) it brings me so much happiness so watch him experience his passion.
So remember, yes we will all probably end up doing a few big tourist things, but hone in your interest and make your trip personal. The memories will be so much better, the stories more unique and your excitement to travel again much higher!