I’ve made many friends around the world, and the people you meet are always more memorable than checking things off a bucket list.Unknown
I’ve had so many people ask me about this topic lately that I knew I wanted to take a deeper dive into it on here. One of the first questions people ask me when I’m planning a trip is where do I even start? Where should I visit first in *insert country here*. I could probably write a book on it, but instead I’ll stick to this fun post.
Long story, short? I always choose to visit the biggest cities on my list first whenever I visit a country. Why? Read on to learn about all of my reasoning behind it.
So Much to See, All the Energy to See It
The bigger the city, the more there is to do. Ask yourself if you want to do all of those things after days or weeks of vacation already under your belt or when you’ve got adrenaline pumping and you’re SO READY to see lots new sites the second you drop your stuff off in your hotel room. Most people spend the travel day to their location exploring close to their accommodations and then hit the ground RUNNING the next day.
You’re fresh. You’re ready. You’re operating on a high capacity and nothing in the world can get you down. Ask yourself if you usually feel like that at the end of a trip? Pack the more intense parts of your destinations early. That way you can park your butt somewhere relaxing at the end and go at a slower pace when you’ve worn yourself out in the bigger towns.
Smaller towns are more fun to explore slowly. You can get the touristy stuff out of the way when you have all of the energy. Then when you’re a little more tired and need a break you can casually explore and stop wherever and whenever you please without feeling like you’re going to miss something.
From the Hustle and Bustle to Slower-Paced Relaxation
Helloooooo destination! You have ARRIVED. So have the 1 million other tourists anxious and excited to see all of the top sites not to mention the hundreds of thousands of locals just trying to go about their day. Starting in a large city for the first part of your trip means you’ve got more patience since you haven’t been annoyed by everyone you’re traveling with, being squished into small spaces with tons of tourists, waited in line for hours, and just been around tons of busy and fast-paced action.
As you know from the section above, you’ve got more energy and big cities have a TON to see. Knock as much off your lists as possible while you’re still energized. A few days in a busy place can leave you feeling drained, so it’s best to get it out of the way at the beginning.
Take Italy for example. Starting in Rome is a fantastic idea. You get to see the big sites like the Colosseum and all of the museums. Then you realize wow I did a lot in a short period of time. Head to Florence where it’s a medium city with a more laid back vibe. Enjoy a few days there and unwind a little. Enjoy the shorter lines, more breathing room and a slower pace. Once you’ve explored to your heart’s content, head to the coast, like Positano, and spend a few days relaxing on a beach, going for a boat ride, and eating a ton of food while watching the world go by. It’s a fantastic way to recharge a little bit before heading back to your daily life and you experienced a little bit of everything.
Avoiding Overwhelming Feelings and Places
Some people love starting small and then gradually making their way into bigger and bolder situations. This can work and I’ve done it, but it always makes me feel a little more overwhelmed. Landing in the midst of a busy city is exhilarating and I always expend a lot of energy there. I purposefully plan to start big and gradually taper things down.
When I visited France for the first time I started in Paris and didn’t realize how tightly I was wound up (albeit in a good way) until I made my way to the south of France and spent days slowly exploring and taking smaller day trips. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by people going from a big city to a smaller one. When I visited the UK I did the opposite.
My first impression was of Scotland, way out in the middle of the country. It was peaceful and laid back. Then, we went to London. Oh man, was it wonderful but it was A LOT after spending several days with next to no people.
Give your brain a break from potentially feeling overwhelmed late in your trip. After all, you’re going to start to think about the logistics of traveling back home and navigating the airports and such, so end with a more relaxed place to better prepare for future stress.
Maximize Your Time
Vacation time is sacred. You finally got the time off from work, saved up, and deserve to see everything you’ve been looking forward to. That’s why I like starting with the rush. Starting in the bigger places that (usually) have more of the places and experiences I want to see makes me feel like I’m maximizing my time. I give myself a few days in one place to ensure there’s enough time to see everything without feeling like I’m cramming it in before I have to fly back.
Smaller towns I spend more time in and casually explore. They’re also great for using as spring boards to take day trips when you discover something nearby that you want to see. Once you’ve gotten the majority of the sites, experiences, museums, excursions, etc done and dusted you can spend more time soaking up the essence of a place like a local. That’s usually where vacations are remembered most. Not in the whirlwinds, but in the more relaxed moments where you can appreciate all that you’ve seen and look forward to just taking things as they come for the rest of the time.
What Do You Guys Think?
Do you like traveling this way too or is there a different way you like to experience the world? I’d love to hear! We all do traveling differently and I love that no one person travels in the exact same way. I totally get that some people find small towns boring and want the fast-paced feel of a city. Either way, I hope you got something out of this and maybe you will give this approach to traveling a shot!