Lonely Planet Writer

Travel debate: one destination vs multiple countries

Passports: is one stamp better than two?

Which travel strategy is better – restless, energetic wandering, taking in as many places as possible; or slower-paced, more in-depth exploration?

Writer Bill scoffs at the view that less is more:

I recently fascinated someone with my account of Smokey Mountain in Manila. I’d been there in 2002 and seen firsthand the plight of the desperately poor inhabitants, who rummage daily through a smouldering, rotting mountain of garbage to survive. I didn’t mention that I hadn’t actually spoken to any locals (I didn’t speak the language), and I was only there for two days (the place stank and was really depressing). I was also due to meet friends at my next travel destination, where I had an equally incredible experience.

The more we can take in of our planet’s incomprehensibly diverse range of flora, fauna, geographies and people, the more insight we gain into our world and ourselves. You’ll limit yourself if you keep stopping along the way. The Facebook app is called ‘Cities I’ve Visited’, not ‘Longest Time I’ve Spent Hanging Around in One Place’.

People who insist on spending months or years in one place are not ‘deep travellers’ – they’ve just moved house. They’re always hanging around at parties, ‘just back on a stopover’, desperate to patronise you with stories about how they’ve ‘became a local over there’ now. But does simply being in one place long enough to get a job or a relationship suddenly qualify you as a ‘local’? And even if it does, then what’s the point of travelling – you know, going places, if you’re just sticking around somewhere else?

The world’s great explorers never lingered, and the world is richer for their adventures. We need context, range – and, most importantly, we need to brag to family, friends and Facebook about the massive number of places we’ve visited. Don’t hang about – get around!

Senior Editor Jane argues that commitment has its rewards:

I could play the ‘it’s better for the earth to visit just one spot’ card here. But frankly, this debate doesn’t need it. It’s clear to any reasonable person that when it comes to travel, one country is better than six.

You’ve got two weeks. You could spend them seeing France and Spain and Italy and Lichtenstein and…I feel tired. Lord knows I attempted that in my 20s, when it felt more important to say I’d been somewhere than actually get to know a place. But why wouldn’t you prefer to really explore one place? Think about it. You could tick off a roster of crowd-filled icons. Or you could you base yourself in a Tuscan villa, explore the area with day trips, chat with locals for insider tips, shop for produce at the weekend markets and get fluent in Italian.

Our lives are full of brief flirtations. Whether it’s a royal wedding or a political scandal, we’re watching it, telling people where we’re watching it on Foursquare, tweeting it, and seeing what our friends are saying about it on Facebook. Our daily lives are spent flitting, trying to be across everything, absorbing very little.

Travel doesn’t deserve this kind of ADD. A place commands your full attention. Take time to stop and smell the spices. Don’t have a series of one-night stands; embark on a relationship with a place. Your faithfulness will be rewarded with a richer travel experience.

Rebuts Bill:

To ‘really explore one place’ can also ruin your experience of it. Such great memories are generated from those brief stays, where you have your senses overloaded with the colours, smells and sounds of that beautiful city/village/beachside resort. Stay long enough and you’re sure to start seeing the ‘hair and pimples’ that don’t show up in a romantic fleeting glance. If you want to stay somewhere, ‘actually getting to know a place’, I’d suggest booking a ticket to Smokey Mountain.

Answers Jane:

If travel is about bragging rights on Facebook, then knock yourself out. But if it’s about learning things, then go deeper. After all, the world has been mapped. The best way you can do a Columbus these days is not to discover what’s already been uncovered, but to try and find the untapped parts of a country. And the best way to do that is to mine the one spot for hidden treasures.

What do you think?