For two weeks we had been doing it all wrong. Finally, it occurred to us: we are not urban tourists.
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What kind of explorer are you? Are you excited by gardens or architecture; do you prefer the historic or the cutting edge parts of town? You already know what interests you, though you might have to decide to focus on those things. Try as you might, until you do, your adventures will not be as fulfilling as they could be.
We spent the first night of a trip following friends around looking for a pub to visit; we have no interest in pubs, though and did not enjoy ourselves – we do not imbibe and prefer more subdued music. Instead, we are coffee beans. We eagerly search out new shops, where we compare our favorite drinks and appreciate the decor over conversation. While there we satisfy our sweet tooth by sampling the offered desserts. This type of exploration is much more our style, motivating us and providing energy. As much as we enjoy our friends’ company, my wife and I much prefer striking out on our own.
What kind of explorer you are influences where you go. Do you want to see the natural areas or tour the city? Since we are visiting a new (to us) country we have been touring the cities and towns, “seeing the sights.” Other than a few monuments and historic buildings, all cities are the same to us. We don’t care about shopping or seeing what the stores have to offer. Once we’ve seen those highlights, we’re left with a city that we have no interest in. At an ancient castle, though, we won’t even have made it inside before most visitors are leaving. We will spend all day exploring the garden and grounds, seeing where all the trails go and watching the wildlife. If that is the only place that we visit, we will be more than thrilled.
This is something that my wife and I consider every year. At least once a year my wife and I go white water rafting. We have two different destinations available within a 5 hour drive. We can travel down to Tennessee, spend the whole weekend and raft on a level 3/4 river for about $150 each (gas, food, camping, rafting, everything), or we can head over to West Virginia for a 4/5 river that costs about $150 for the day trip (just rafting). It’s a no-brainer for us. We are rather frugal and like our money to go further. We prefer to spend the entire weekend; we get to go hiking in the mountains, we carry our climbing gear so we can do some climbing, there is a cave nearby that we can explore, and we get to go rafting! The river is not quite as wild, but it is still a great experience, and the other activities available more than make up for any difference in the rivers.
Don’t think that this is just something that you need to consider when visiting somewhere new; it applies to places near to home as well. When you visit the nearby lake, do you want to go fishing, swimming or rock skipping? All three require different circumstances, found at different spots along the shore. When visiting the park, are you going there for a quiet stroll in the shade, a brisk jog for exercise, or somewhere private for a picnic? These different goals might be best suited at completely different parks, separate locations within the park, or during varying times of day.
Now that we have consciously thought about our preferences, our trips have been much better suited for us. We might never do some of the things that our fellow students are doing, but we will visit other places they will never see. These differences in our respective trips will provide the extra personal meaning that we are searching for.