When was the last time you had a few days to explore a new destination, and the person you were travelling (or staying) with insisted on charging around like a head teacher on a school trip, ticking off sights and waypoints with something akin to religious fanaticism? In your visual memory of this trip, you might find it hard not to accessorise that person with an imaginary clipboard.
Can’t remember? You’re either a lucky traveller or you are that person.
If that does actually sound like you, it’s likely that - however much you crave going abroad - you haven’t quite relaxed into the long term travel mindset. The secret is simple; unless crisis occurs, you can always go back. Once you understand this, every trip, from a couple of weeks’ holiday to a lucky few months of globe-wandering freedom, becomes part of your lifelong travel journey - instead of another compromise before you get round to the “real” travelling.
“Just because you must work between trips doesn’t mean that every holiday or adventure can’t be a segment in one lifelong journey.”
It is very, very easy to fall into the dual traps of (1) feeling like you don’t have enough time to do everything and (2) absorbing an enormous list of “musts” before you’ve even visited a place. This can make the travel mindset quite difficult to relax into. Social media, regular media, guidebooks, advertising, documentaries, personal recommendations - all potentially useful, but also capable of flooding you with so many expectations that you struggle to see past them to what’s actually in front of you.
To avoid these traps, you must first accept that no, you do not have time to do and see everything you’ll read or hear about. You might be shrugging right now, and thinking “of course I don’t”... but it’s amazing how frantic some people can get because they’ve absorbed the fear that they’re somehow “doing it wrong” if they’re not constantly ticking off items on an ever-extending list. Next, accept that even if you revisit a place a dozen times, it will keep changing - maybe swiftly, maybe slow, but inevitably - and that is part of the fragile magic of existence.
Having relaxed about the nature of time and your own mortal limitations, you can learn to approach every trip, whatever its length, with a long term travel philosophy. Although we all have different reasons for travelling, people who make the most of it tend to treat every trip as not only an experience to be enjoyed right now for what it is, but also a sort of gentle on-the-ground reconnaissance for future travel.
As you explore, don’t panic about what you can’t fit in this time - just follow up the opportunities you can, and make a note of what you can’t, but wish you had. This is a really good method for assessing whether or not a place is worth passing through again - if you come away from a place with a long list of things you would’ve like to do, the chances are it’s worth returning to. If you ran out of interest after day 2 and turned up enthusiastically early at the airport due to sheer boredom, you can probably cross that place off your revisit list.
Crucially, remember that travel should not be a chore, and it certainly shouldn’t be treated as a list of achievements with which to impress anybody else!