Most of the people I know like to travel, largely for the yearly holiday but in the last years, they have started traveling more and more, squeezing in at least one city break, choosing tropical destinations far away from home, investing more and more in this passion and curiosity. The economy has developed as well in the last years making traveling more affordable for an increasing number of people and I’m positive most of your friends are doing it too. Traveling with really small children, not giving it all up for anything in the world, saving throughout the year for these few days of escape. But you and I both know what this means: they will all start with the most touristic places out there, making places like Rome, London, Paris, Barcelona, and the list could go on and on, become less appealing.
Let’s face it, you will never ever see Fontana di Trevi like in Mastroianni’s “La Dolce Vita”, you will need to wait in line in order to take a picture with the beautiful fountain in the background and most probably you will need to fight some many groups to get to the front of the line. You will wait in line for at least one hour in order to get a ticket to the Musei Vaticani and walking towards the “Capella Sistina” will feel like walking at the subways station at rush hour. Everything is coordinated even if you are not part of a group, you will stop to take pictures whenever and wherever the crowd will stop.
But that does not mean the city is to be avoided, not at all. Just that you need to know that you will have to be super patient and take into consideration the fact that it will take more time to check all the boxes on your bucket list.
Waiting at least an hour in line for the London Eye, booking at least two weeks ahead of time in order to drink a coffee at the Sky Garden, being prepared to wait for hours to get up to the Eiffel Tower, booking a Flamenco show one week in advance when in Valencia, and don’t let me start talking about the huge line at the aquarium (lots of children crying so nerves of steel in high demand).
My worst experience? I have to admit that Venice during Carnival time is not something I will want to try once again anytime soon. Yes, it’s fun to see all the people wearing funny costumes, feeling good, singing and dancing on the narrow streets between the canals, take pictures with Dorothy and Toto, but here is where the fun ends. Even getting to Venice by train was an experience, walking from the train station to Piazza San Marco felt like forever and one day, walking shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other people, not being able to stop at any given time, getting lost from the group I was with….everything just felt tedious. Venice is a lovely fairytale place that deserves full attention and being discovered one street at the time, admiring the old shriveled buildings, savoring an Aperol Spritz under the warm Spring sun.
Cuba is amazing, Havana is impressive and all those colorful pictures competing on Instagram for the most picturesque place in Cuba make you want to get up and go. The country is incredible indeed, but you are only seeing part of it. No one shows us the other side: the buildings almost falling apart, the poverty making people willing to sell you anything by any means, the communist dull buildings outside of the big cities, the meal allowance locals are entitled to, the fact that in order to get into Cayo Santa Maria we had to cross a control point making access to the locals forbidden.
What else you ask? Well, the tropical secluded Sao beach on Phu Quoc island has two sides of the story: the European – like Paradise Beach where everything is clean and you have sun beds and the well-known swing everybody takes Instagram perfect pictures in; and the traditional part, where people sit in the sun next to a pile of garbage, cows eat next to you, locals look at you while throwing leftovers in the crystal clear blue water.
The Christmas Market in Munich (or anywhere else I tend to believe) is full of life, food, handcrafted ornaments, the little houses filled with joy and happiness and the buildings everywhere in the city center beautifully prepared for the holidays. But expect crowds of people, stepping on your feet, bulking in at every stand, like you wanting to get the best out of this. And watch out for the time when the clock in Marienplaz starts singing because that place won’t be the right spot for setting up a meeting point. Everyone will be there, standing in the middle of the street enjoying the moment and the Glühwein.
Just don’t get discouraged. Don’t ever feel frightened or feel that you should avoid something just because it might get a little bit crowded. Traveling is still fun and every place needs to be seen and experienced at least once in a lifetime, and planning ahead of time will do the trick, helping you make the best out of every destination!