Let’s get something out of the way from the start. If someone offered me a free trip to Paris, I’d waste no time finding a Seine-side café, ordering something bubbly, and reading whatever books I’ve lugged along with me.
But barring any surprise free trips? I’m done with cities—even the classics like Paris and Rome.
Globalization Has Changed Our Cities
These days, most cities feel decidedly generic to me. The fact that I’ve eaten at Shake Shack in both New York and Dubai might be fascinating, but it’s not exactly what I want in a travel experience.
Cities around the world now share the binding ties of globalization. Sure, New York has the Empire State Building and Dubai has the Burj Khalifa, not to mention drastically different cultures. But having lived in or around cities for most of my life, I’ve decided to spend my vacations escaping the urban. Getting away from the soaring skyscrapers and busy streets (not to mention all the McDonald’s and Starbucks) excites me now.
Take Berlin, as another example. I’d consider living there, but I didn’t particularly enjoy making it part of my travels. Maybe that seems incompatible, but hear me out. Berlin has all the elements I’d look for in a place to call home: global residents, great parks, employment opportunities, plenty of good food, and a thriving nightlife. But walking the streets of Berlin doesn’t feel all that different than walking the streets of, say, Seattle. Sure, there are cultural differences, but to me there’s a starker contrast in culture away from the international atmosphere of a city.
Go Where You Want to Go, Not Where You ‘Have’ to Go
I hear people saying things like, “Well, I stopped in Switzerland for lunch just so I could check that country off my list.” Or, “I saw the Eiffel Tower, so now that’s out of the way.” It makes me wonder if any of them actually want to go to these places.
Time is valuable. Why would you go someplace just to say you went? That seems more like a chore than a vacation. Figuring out what you like—whether that’s food, history, nature, culture, or some combination of these or other factors—is critical to choosing destinations that are worth your time and money.
I’ve learned to ignore it when people say, “Oh, you haven’t gone to Lisbon yet?” or “You have to see inside Neuschwanstein Castle!”
No, I don’t.
And I don’t expect many of my friends to find the same excitement I experience when hiking around fjords on Senja or in the mountains along the German/Austrian border, either. But the tiny restaurants nestled in the mountains serving germknodel alongside Allgauer Buble Bier—to me, those are worth every footstep along the path.
My New Bucket List
Because there’s only so much time off I can take and money I can spend, my bucket list now includes hiking the Besseggen Ridge and swimming in Lake Sorapis. It doesn’t include any of the world’s major cities.
Maybe I’ll try to visit The Met for the Diane Arbus exhibit on my next visit home—if it’s not out of my way or budget. Maybe I’ll end up in Lisbon one day.
But I’m reprioritizing travel on the things I want to see, not what other people tell me I need to see.
For me, that means no more cities.
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