Lonely Planet Writer

When can you say you've been somewhere?

Have you ever come up against one of those travel blowhards who just seems to have been eeeeverywhere? Then you start poking at their stories, asking for restaurant recommendations in Riga...turns out they've only been to the airport. Huh.

A recent Slate podcast was discussing the concept of when you can actually say that you've 'been' somewhere. Does the airport count? (They decided no, it didn't, as they weren't 'real' places and they could be anywhere.) But they came to the conclusion that you didn't need to spend the whole day in a city either. It came down to having a distinct experience that captured the flavour of the place. (Therefore McDonald's in Moscow doesn't count.)

Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum has debated the criteria you need to meet before you can rightfully say 'hell yeah I've been there!'. While one member famously decided you just needed to apply the '2W1P*' rule to get the right to say you've been, another member maintains that even a week in the capital city doesn't get you over the line.

We posed the question to our Facebook readers, and one drilled down even further, saying you can't say you've been to a city until you've been to every part of it. You can say you've been to the Champs-Elysées, but you can't say you've 'been' to Paris if that's all you've seen. Yikes.

Other Facebookers said they felt they'd 'been' somewhere when they had:

  • got the feel of a place - the culture and personality of a city
  • stayed overnight and attempted to speak the language
  • gone grocery shopping
  • merely set foot in the place
  • found many ways to describe it, either the food, the culture, the weather, the people, etc.
  • made a friend and gone on a date

Of course, some say getting drunk qualifies as being there, but you don't even know where you are in your own hometown when you're trollied, so I don't know how that one works...

I've decided I can say I've been somewhere when I can recall it in all five senses - when I can hear the subway, smell the bus fumes, picture the rain-drenched pigeons in doorways, taste the bagels and remember the feel of the dive bar's resident labrador's ears.

Where do you stand? At what point can you put your hand up and say 'oh yeah, I've been there!'?

*Two wees, one poo