I was watching my travel hero, Anthony Bourdain on his old show “No Reservations” the other day. He was in Egypt describing the culture, food and people there. In one of the car scenes, his cab driver asked when he’d be visiting the Sphinx and he said never. In no way did he want to mix in with the tourists, the tour buses, the long lines, etc. I was shocked. HA. How do you travel to the other side of the world, to a country famous for its pyramids and completely disregard them because you know there will be loads of tourists?! I began to think of my own travels, then understood where Tony was coming from. In Pisa, I was honestly so turned off by the crowds. I had to walk through a wall of people selling fake goods (leather bags, belts, scarves & watches) just to get near the site of the Leaning Tower. As I got closer, I discovered a McDonald’s filled with tourists directly across from the entrance gate (SAY WHAT?!). When I finally entered the area, the first things I saw were hundreds of other tourists with their hands in the air, pretending to push the Leaning Tower as they did the infamous pose. UGH. I would normally avoid areas like this but how could I explain to my family and friends that I traveled to Pisa and didn’t visit the Leaning Tower? Can you imagine being accosted by your folks with: “Wait…you went all the way to Paris and didn’t fight for a spot in front of the Mona Lisa to snap a pic?”; “But it’s London!! How could you not enter Buckingham Palace?”; “I can’t believe you went to Beijing and didn’t see the Forbidden City!” What a waste, it would seem.
We all have our own methods of travel. In my case, there are many times when I do want to see the major attractions but it depends on my level of interest + how important I think the attraction is to the city’s history and culture. Despite the crowds, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a must-see for me, for those very reasons. However, there are some times when I may have zero interest in a place but pay to see it anyway. Have you ever felt obligated to visit a major tourist attraction because of the expectations of others? For me, the answer is yes.
Confession time: I really wasn’t interested in visiting Stonehenge. I read up about it online, I’ve seen it on everyone’s bucket lists, I even added it to my own bucket list as a copycat (ha) but Stonehenge still had zero appeal to me. As I was planning my London trip & looking into day trips to Cambridge or Oxford, my friend asked when I’d be seeing the mystical rocks. “I mean, you’ll be right there…and who knows when you’ll be in England again…just GO”. So I went. As expected, there were at least 12 tour buses and hundreds of people out there. It was rainy and cold. We all walked around with umbrellas and audio tour equipment, soggy and freezing…staring at rocks that were several yards away. Now I don’t know how I was supposed to feel but I will honestly say that I felt nothing. Totally unmoved. After about an hour of listening to the audio guide and snapping pics, we were herded back into buses and left. Time has passed and I get to say that I visited Stonehenge. I can cross it off my bucket list & brag about it to my family but I know for sure that I would’ve never seen Stonehenge if it wasn’t strongly suggested and expected of me.
Are there any attractions that you weren’t excited about yet felt the need to visit anyway?