We no longer know how to simply explore
Here's a challenge for you: pick a country. Pick a city in that country. Book a flight to that city and stay there for seven nights. Go to that country without planning anything in advance -- no must-see sights, no must-eat restaurants, no group tours or pre-planned activities, nothing. Don't do any kind of Internet research before leaving: no "Best places to eat in Madrid" or "Best snorkeling in Bora Bora" or "How to live like a local in Istanbul when you're only there for three days." Just go where the wind blows you once you arrive.
Did you just break out into cold sweat at the thought of traveling without a plan? Of all that precious time wasted trying to figure it out as you go? The anxiety of not squeezing the most out of every single second with an action-packed itinerary hitting on all of the "bests" and "mosts" as told to you by the Internet?
Without getting too preachy, the true spirit of travel lies in discovery, right? And the secret to "discovery" doesn’t lie in online checklists. It's in wandering around and ducking into whatever places seem like they might be cool, picking up a the local paper to see what's going on around town that day, talking to some locals and getting their recommendations of what's worth checking out (and what isn't).
Look, I get that my view is just one perspective and that people travel for different reasons and that it's stressful and a lot of folks need structure to feel comfortable. I also get that some people are only in it to check things off a bucket list and/or eat at every Hard Rock Cafe in Europe, and that some are just natural planners. And yes, while certain activities -- like, say, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro -- require extensive advanced planning, most do not. All I'm saying is don't let your obsessive Internet research become a burden. Do not become a slave to your Tripadvisor itinerary. You can't do it ALL in six days. And even if you could, your friends don't really want to follow it all anyway. Seriously, they don't.
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Nicole Rupersburg cannot imagine living in a world without Google Maps, even though she remembers that being real life once. It sucked. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @eatsdrinksandleaves.