One issue that all travelers face is the question of how long to stay in one particular place—we are always thinking that our time to travel is limited, so we want to see as many cities and countries as possible in that finite period of time. On the other hand, if you only visit a city for 3-4 days you really can’t “get into” that city. You might be able to visit a few of the major tourist attractions, but you won’t have time to really investigate the culture or local life of the area.
That’s a question I have been grappling with for years. Before I moved abroad and really started traveling extensively, I tried to explore as much of the US as possible. My favorite city for many years was NYC, and I would visit it 2-3 times a year, each time doing different activities and getting more familiar with the real character of NYC.
Then one day I decided to switch things up and found a cheap airfare and hotel deal to Washington DC… I spent four days in the capital… now DC is my favorite US city, and when I am back in the US, I will be visiting the DC area again to explore further.
Now that I am traveling full-time I have to think about how many days/weeks/months I want to stay in a particular place, and that’s where I’ve really made some breakthroughs. I have been living in Bangkok for 10 months, and the internal feelings that I want to move somewhere else and start something new are welling up inside me. However, I still have 5 months left on my lease in Bangkok. I will definitely be moving by the end of my lease, but part of me wishes I could jump on a bus tomorrow and move on.
I do have some ideas about where I’d like to move this summer, but that’s for another post. The focus of this post is that it’s impossible to know how long you will want to stay in a place until you get there and spend a little bit of time. It’s also impossible to predict when your heart will tell you it’s time to move on. So, the best policy, and the one I will be living by in the future, is to not tie myself down to any lease or commitment longer than 3 months. I will also try not book travel any more than 3 months in advance unless it’s absolutely necessary. When I first arrived in Central America last year I already had my onward ticket booked from Panama City to Bangkok, which meant I had limited myself to two months in Central America.
In the future, I won’t be buying onward tickets unless I start to feel that it’s time to move on. As always, I don’t regret having purchased the Bangkok ticket so far in advance… I appreciate it. It taught me a lesson that I should follow my heart and leave myself as much freedom about the future as possible.
Question: What do you consider the perfect length of time to visit a city? When you travel, do you spend a few days in each city, or do you spend time in one area?