“The top towns also boast heartwarming settings where the air is a little fresher, the grass greener, the pace gentler than in metropolitan America.”
Are tourist towns worth visiting?
At least once a week I run into some granola eating trust-fund travel hippies who ask me “Have you been to [town several hours away] and had lunch in the square yet?” They always act shocked when I tell them no.
The truth is, I don’t have the time, money, or patience to meander around the countryside looking at every old church. And, honestly, you shouldn’t waste your time doing this either. If you’re traveling be strategic and avoid mindless sightseeing. It will drain your wallet and your sanity.
Tourist traps will suck you dry
This week I went to see the Nazca Lines and some really old mummified corpses. Both of these attractions were awesome and I’d highly recommend them. However, the city of Nazca itself is just one giant attempt at getting you to part with your cash.
As soon as you step off the bus you’re surrounded by hustlers and hecklers. I was personally swarmed by no less than five dudes who followed me from the bus station to the front of my hotel. They bugged me about “cheap tours” and immediately dampened my mood.
Those guys on the street aren’t the only ones trying to rip you off either. Going out to eat costs, by Peruvian standards, quite a bit. All the restaurants are Westernized, meaning they serve burgers and pizza, and a sandwich costs more than a full meal back in Lima. Also, getting food at a street vendor is just a pricey due to the fact that you’ll be paying “Gringo tax.” I got a small plate of fried intestine and a potato for the same price as cerviche in my city. Guts that have been cooked on an outdoor grill should never cost that much.
If it wasn’t for my awesome tour of the Nazca Lines I wouldn’t have liked this place at all. The town itself is dirty and overpriced. Outside the lines and mummies there’s no reason to stick around.
This might sound like I’m bashing on one place I didn’t like, but it’s true of every tourist destination around the world. In every country I’ve been to the touristy parts are worse and more expensive than anywhere else.
Leafer country in Iowa, where I grew up, is outrageously expensive. When the seasons start to change and the weather cools down a $5 cup of coffee doubles in price. And there are all kinds of shoddy hotels that thrive off desperate travelers who’ll put up with whatever they find.
Simply put, the influx of tourists and their guaranteed income keeps tourist communities from ever innovating or improving. They know you’ll be paying them so they really don’t have to worry about your needs. There’s nowhere else for you to go that’s any better.
Most places are one show wonders
A lot of people kept raving about how awesome Ica, Peru was. Going there was fun, but it isn’t a “must see” place like everyone made it out to be.
If you’re on the road and go to every single “quaint” town or place with one really good restaurant, you’ll waste your vacation. These places usually have, at most, an hour’s worth of unique experiences. Visiting a museum, drinking a beer at the brewery where it was made, or shopping at a farmer’s market are all activities that can be done in under a day.
If you have a two week vacation and decide to visit some small town with one attraction you’ve just traded a whole day for two hours of fun. Driving five hours to look at a town square and have a snack is poor time management.
Locals hate tourists
Townies verses outsiders is a feud as old and deep as Bloods verses Crips. Most visitors are bumbling morons who disrupt everything. Even if you’re cool, people will still lump you in with all the dorks and irritants.
In Lima you can walk up to any girl, start a basic conversation with her, and invite her out later or get her number. Step off the bus in some tourist hotspot and the women look at you with scorn.
Local dudes will be hostile too. They’ll basically view you as a chump and either troll you or try to get at your wallet. You have to be on guard the whole time you’re in a tourist trap. Otherwise it’s very easy to get taken advantage of.
Making friends in these places is difficult. The residents don’t like you and other backpackers are concerned with showing you all the photos they’ve taken. It creates a very strange and alien feeling if you are journeying alone.
Only go to places worth visiting
It probably sounds like I hate traveling and seeing cool sights. But I don’t. In fact, I love checking out cool new things.
However, I think that it is incredibly important to choose your destinations wisely. Otherwise you’ll end up at a whole bunch of unsatisfying trips that kill your desire to see the world.
Pick places that actually seem cool to you. Don’t just bounce around because some guy, or guidebook, told you how awesome a distant rock pile is.