Often, when we talk about travel, the emphasis is placed on breadth of geography, rather than depth of experience. Plenty of people boast about seeing Rome, Paris, and Berlin in a single week, as though crossing capital cities—and by extension entire countries—off of a metaphorical checklist. Certainly there is something to be said for visiting multiple countries. Sometimes, however, it makes more sense to visit a single country, and take the time to visit places off the beaten track. The big cities and famous sites can be amazing, but often the best memories come from unplanned experiences in places that guidebooks gloss over.
For just one example, let’s take a look at Italy. The country is more than Rome, Venice, and Florence, but many visitors never venture beyond these cities. In the south, the city of Naples is a big draw, as are the justifiably famous Amalfi coast and the ruined cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. A visit to any combination of these sites would be amazing, and putting them all into one itinerary would make for a full and varied experience. What would happen, though, if you just focused on one area? Many travelers think that they would become bored quickly if they spent more than two days in any one region. In fact, nearly the opposite is true. Moving around too much can produce “travel fatigue,” causing you to look at things more superficially. Spending more time to focus on one area can awaken your curiosity and make you want find out ever more about a place.
Going back to the example of southern Italy, did you know that Naples has beautiful Greco-Roman ruins nearby? If you only spend a day there, you probably won’t see them. Similarly, the town of Positano, though not far off, is often overlooked. But given that it’s known throughout Italy for its beautiful handmade shoes and ceramics, and given that it was a favorite place of John Steinbeck, it’s a place that you probably don’t want to miss. The list goes on—you could hike mount Vesuvius, rather than just visiting Pompeii, you could visit medieval monasteries and try local wines and spirits from the wineries that make them. Focusing on one area frees you from the checklist mentality and lets you actually explore.
That’s all well and good, you might say, but you only have 10 days of vacation a year. Taking extra time to explore isn’t an option. If you fall into the strapped-for-time crowd, memorable travels full of explorations are still possible. The solution is to take a small-group, guided adventure or walking tour through the area that you want to see. The tour leader will have done the research for you, so you’ll be directed to all the best places for exploration, and a small group will provide companionship without slowing you down. If you have the means, most of these companies will even provide custom tours so that you and your family can have the vacation you’ve always dreamed of without having the stress of planning it.
So ditch the checklist model of travel, delve deeper into a single region per trip, and let the experience speak for itself. You’ll have amazing photos and amazing memories, and better vacation stories than you’ve ever had before.
Laura Carroll is a freelance writer for Classic Journeys and numerous other travel sites. She has lived, worked, and traveled in more than 20 countries around the world.