Lifestyle Travel

Why there is no such thing as a ‘must-do’ when travelling

It’s a myth that you have to do everything and see everything which is why I think that the idea of a ‘must-see’ destination is fundamentally flawed. I have begun to think about this as a backpacker in Asia, because I read a lot of travel blogs where I often see the words ‘must-do’ and ‘unmissable’ about various destinations around the world.

I absolutely agree that the world is indeed incredible and there are countless fascinating places to visit all around the globe. Places that will fill you will awe, bring you to tears, devastate and fulfil you. Places that will make strangers envy you. Places that will make you feel emotional for years to come.

Riding the train in Mumbai, South India
Riding the train in Mumbai, South India

I completely understand the desire to ‘sell’ a place in order to get people to click on it, as trying to get heard on the internet becomes more difficult by the day. However, there is such a pressure to see it all and do it all that I would counter the idea of having to see a certain amount in one day.

I love sightseeing and I am as guilty of trying to see it all as anyone in these last few years. I say these last few years because I’ve been travelling since before WiFi and most social media, including Instagram.

I backpacked around South America in my early twenties with only a physical guidebook and I saw so many wonderful things that filled me with joy. Now that blogging about travel is also done in the form of travel guides as well as your personal journey, I’ve begun to find out about the places that I’ve missed.

Different places have naturally become fashionable in the last ten years and that’s entirely understandable. I went to the places that I’d read about at the time but sometimes I would feel frustrated if I didn’t get to see somewhere, but ultimately I saw the things that meant something to me.

I left South America feeling like I’d seen what I wanted to see and I even wrote a book about travelling overland from Tierra del Fuego up to Nicaragua. That’s how confident I was that I had done my damnedest to see as much as I could in the eleven months that I had spent there.

Nowadays, I’m still travelling and I’ve visited over a third of the world’s countries but not one of these places is a ‘must do’ or ‘unmissable’ because travel is inherently subjective. You can get everything you need from travel without even leaving your country because travel is about doing the things that are important to you.

I made an effort to read many blogs before my trip to Myanmar as there is less information about it online compared to other places, having only really opened up to tourists in recent years.

This is all great but every listicle says something different and while some places are undoubtedly incredible, cycling around the temples in Bagan is only really worthwhile if you like temples. It’s great to see famous sights but you visit a country to see and learn the things that match your values, so if you want to watch birds or sit on a beach then that’s your prerogative.

When I was in South America with my friend, we lost days to hangovers, spent days on buses, swotted up on our Spanish, chatted up strangers and chilled out in the cinema. We didn’t fill every second with sights and we still had a great time. The reason we probably had such a great time was that we didn’t have a list of sights to see and we didn’t have to take photographs of ourselves looking great.

In fact, we barely took any photos at all as our cameras were rubbish. Nowadays, I love photography but back then I knew my priorities – see all these countries and have a bloody good time while doing it.

I think that there are definitely limits to how many sweaty and potentially overpriced tourist sights that you can drag yourselves around if they don’t spark joy for you. Travel is a privilege and one of the most beautiful parts of this is the space to think, as well as seeing things you didn’t know existed.

Travel is such a golden opportunity for comedy, culture and occasional crapness that it would be remiss to ignore these in order to have 100’s of photographs of temples that you cannot distinguish later on down the line. Unless you are fascinated by temples and they do bring you joy in which case you absolutely should.

The happiest travel memories can be buses, hotels, food and the things you discover when you least expect it. Travel blogs are a fantastic source of information and I love writing them but always let your values lead the way. If you truly want to say something about travel then originality is key. Often perfection can be dull and a great anecdote is the thing that people want to really know about.

Travel your way and make memories that will make you piss yourself laughing in years to come. As John Lennon almost said, travel is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

My first book, Backpacker Confessions: Girl vs Latin America is can be bought here:

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Why there is no such thing as a ‘must-do’ when travelling
Why there is no such thing as a ‘must-do’ when travelling

 

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