A friend of mine recently had a blow up with her boyfriend; one of those spiralling out about everything under the sun arguments. One of the (many) things they argued about was their different stages in travel life – as a relatively fresh off the boat arrival of a year, she was still full of boundless energy for weekend breaks, while as a soon to be resident of the UK he didn’t feel that he could really “do” a place in just a weekend. Not to mention, he pointed out, the fact that weekend travel is just so damn tiring!
I considered his point (not about being tired, I mean, you can sleep when you’re dead, right?). Was a weekend enough time to immerse yourself in a new city, and more likely a new country and culture?
Living in London, I am extremely lucky to have access to a lot of countries thanks to very short distances and very cheap flights. Hopping on a plane on Friday night to head to another country just isn’t possible in Australia if you have to be back at work on Monday. So of course us Aussies living overseas want to make the most of it – but to be honest, after four years here, my approach to a weekend away has really changed.
There was a time when I would have armed myself with a lonely planet guide and a checklist of the major sights to ensure I made the absolute most of my two days. Once off the plane, train or ferry, I would hit the ground running trying to cram as much as possible in. By the time I got home on Sunday night (late, thanks to my delayed cheap-as-chips flight at the very last possible time available) I would sink exhausted into bed and catch four hours sleep before getting up for work.
Nowadays, I generally have no idea what I’m doing when I get where I’m going. I walk, everywhere, soaking it all up. Often I don’t see any major attractions – but as I don’t do any research beforehand, I don’t realise what I’ve missed either. Instead I relax over long meals, talk to the locals, and wander the streets. My photos aren’t filled with grand cathedrals and castle walls, but with street art, quirky storefronts and hidden alleyways. I get my return journey at a reasonable hour, and I’m home with time for a cuppa before heading to bed and getting a full night’s sleep.
Yes, my approaches seem like polar opposites, and most people don’t take it to either extreme. Neither way is necessarily better than the other – travel habits evolve as you do, and you will take what you want out of each trip. But can you “do” a place in a weekend? Can you immerse yourself in just two days? Absolutely. In a thousand different ways.