Before going abroad, many people produce a list of attractions that they want to go and visit (Paris isn’t complete without a trip to the Eiffel Tower, or, Oh my god, you have to go to the Louvre otherwise you haven’t ‘done’ Paris – you know the score). Days, or even weeks in advance, the guide books would come out and popular activities and locations would be circled, all of them making it to the final cut of the itinerary. And, yes, these things are great to see – who doesn’t want to at least see the grandeur of the Eiffel Tower in real life? But sometimes it feels like people look down on me if I have omitted a ‘vital’ tourist attraction from my itinerary. Yes, I have been to Paris three times but, no, I have never been to the Louvre. Sacrilege, right? Well, not in my eyes.
Paris for me is an extraordinary city with so much to see and do that it’s impossible to visit every single tourist attraction and, personally, I would rather sit outside a Parisian café sipping a caffe crème than trundle around the Louvre with hundreds of other tourists. Of course, I would love to go to the Louvre at some point in my life but, the thing is, I have seen and read so much about it that it feels as if I have already been there. Without a doubt the Louvre is a huge part of many people’s attraction to the city but does being stuck inside really offer Paris at its best? For me, at least, Paris is all about quirky street culture and people watching, and to do this I don’t need to queue for hours to hike up the Eiffel Tower staring at another tourists back the whole way. In fact, I could happily go to Paris, not see any of the ‘must-dos’, and feel like I’ve experienced more of the Parisian way of life than if I had. Because, at the end of the day, just being there is enough; experiencing a different culture, immersing myself in the city life unravelling around me, and just enjoying being somewhere different is a huge part of being abroad and I often think this is overlooked by the need to visit and take photos of prominent places almost as if they serve as proof that you’ve actually been there.
Of course, it’s nice to see attractions that you’ve heard so much about in the flesh as I believe you can’t truly experience something until you’ve seen it first-hand, but I think some people take this to extremes and spend their time abroad dashing from one hotspot to another and not really enjoying it. Sometimes I guess it’s good to just kick back, relax, and appreciate simply being somewhere different.
What do you think? Are you a hotspot dasher or is being there enough for you?