People or places: why do you travel?

September 26, 2011 in Philosophy,Travel

Why I travel—why I click the “buy” button on an airline website and watch my hard-earned money float away, endure crack-of-dawn wake-up calls and late-night taxi rides, why I gladly suffer through jet lag and customs forms and currency exchanges—usually falls into one of two categories: people or places.

California girls at Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany 2010

I travel to catch up over drinks with friends, whisper sweet nothings with a lover, fall into lifelong-routines with family. Or I travel to catch my breath over postcard-perfect views, soak up the sunshine on a sandy beach, experience a once-in-a-lifetime festival, like Oktoberfest or La Tomatina. If I’m lucky, travel fulfills both the yearning to see a person and a place.

There’s a difference in priorities when I visit people instead of places. I’m willing to “waste time”—relax over manis and pedis, stay out late with just one round of cocktails, actually close the blinds and sleep in before stumbling out to brunch. It’s more about the relationship than the scenery, realizing that Skype dates can never truly replace a dinner date.

When I visit a new place, I want to see as much as possible. I do my research, write my lists, plan an itinerary. I wake up early, splurge on dessert, take too many photos. I indulge in my solo travel joys. I don’t want to waste a minute in a new place: what if I never get the chance to go back?

California girls on the San Clemente Pier, Orange County, USA

However, visiting people can be difficult once you get used to traveling to places. When I spent New Year’s Eve with girlfriends in Orange County, I realized how much I’d gotten used to the “places” model: I wanted to wake up early, explore the touristy sites, take photos of more than just us dressed up with cocktails in hand. My girlfriends wanted to spend the day by the pool, the night at the bar.

Then again, I like to take advantage of my around-the-world address book. I’ve been lucky enough to visit friends studying in the beautiful cities of Oxford, England and Cork, Ireland. This weekend, I caught up with a girlfriend from university who is currently living in Wellington for the Rugby World Cup.

California USA girls in Wellington, New Zealand for Rugby World Cup 2011

Another great way to combine a love of favorite people and new places is to travel somewhere together. When Rex and I were both in Europe at the same, we decided to meet up in Amsterdam for a weekend of bike riding and an absolutely epic Museum Night. I’ve explored Chicago, Corsica and Florence with a partner-in-crime, someone to ooh and ahh over the architecture and share the local specialties.

Sometimes I just need an in-person weekend, other times it’s all about the place. But I won’t deny that the best is when it’s a balance of them both.

Do you prefer to travel for people or places?

  • Anonymous

    That is a hard choice…I love both! For me, Paris is like a person…a lovely lady who never disappoints! I have met amazing people though, who I now travel there for, amongst many other cities…for people. 😉

  • I would say both! Many times I travel for the place, but it ends up being the people I meet there that really make it memorable.

  • Beautiful post!  For me it’s for the people!!!

  • For me, it’s the places.  I love people, and I would feel like a trip is a wasted one if I don’t come away with at least a few one-on-one encounters with locals and fellow travelers.  However, the true measure of a successful trip is how taken away I am by my surroundings.  London is my favorite place in the world because it is a perfect companion in and of itself.

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  • Not to sound anti-social, but I travel for the places. If I meet cool people along the way, great, but my primary goal is to see a place and experience it.

  • I also enjoy a balance of both. I’m usually a traveler for places, but I’ve also been known to travel for people. I just recently visited a friend that lives in Omaha, Nebraska. So while I was excited to catch up with her, we also made sure to trek up and down the entirety of that city.

  • It’s not an either or. I’m both.

    I’m big on relationships, so if I can spend time with good friends somewhere remote? I’ll almost always pick that option than going to a sweet place by myself..

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  • Rajasthan Tours Operator

    cool this is really cool very nice places to go

  • Anonymous

    Depends where but I would say it’s a bit of both. When I travel through Europe, it’s generally for the place (except when I go to London, it’s for friends/people). 

    ps. LOVE that top shot of you! So cute!

  • Anonymous

    I have had some of my favorite solo and not-so-solo travel experiences in Paris…it’s a gorgeous city that lends itself to so many different types of adventures :)

  • Anonymous

    Definitely agree. I have some amazing friends that I’ve met in crazy places all over the world!

  • Anonymous

    You’re lucky that your love is in such a beautiful place to visit :)

  • Anonymous

    I’ve only gone to London to visit friends, but I feel the same way about Paris: it’s gorgeous whether or not I’m with anyone :)

  • Anonymous

    That’s how I am–unless I’m traveling specifically with someone or to see someone, it’s more about the place.

  • Anonymous

    That’s how it was when I visited a friend in Wellington just this past weekend–I was there to see her, but she was great about playing tourist with me!

  • Anonymous

    I have planned quuuite a few trips based on where friends were living all over the world!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you! Oktoberfest last year…totally wishing I was going back this year! The joys of living in Europe…so many cool and different places, all so close together!

  • I would have to say places if places includes the food. =)
    But great people make your travels so much more memorable too. 

  • Great post! I’ve found myself thinking a lot about this lately… I’ve just started REALLY traveling, and try to do a nice mix of people and places – I explore new places by myself and keep to my own (stricter) schedule; if I’m visiting friends (more cost effective, ha!) I let them show me around; if we’re both/all visiting some place new, I like to do things during the day and do more of the bar/pool stuff to unwind at night.

  • Anonymous

    Ahhh places DEFINITELY include the food :)

  • Anonymous

    Once you figure out the right balance, everything just clicks into place–it’s so nice to have a combination of both! I love it when friends have to work a few days while I’m visiting–they always feel guilty, but I love it because I get a chance to explore properly on my own and then hang out with them at night!

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  • Rajasthan Tours

    Beautiful pictures and great post ….

  • I travel for the places, and always end up meeting the most amazing people. But it’s definitely the place that initially draws me in and gets me excited about going.

  • Anonymous

    Can definitely relate to that sentiment :)

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