Soon, Damon and I will have been married five years. On our first anniversary, we had dinner at Aquitaine thanks to a wedding gift from Damon's labmates. On our second, we had dinner at Sel de la Terre, this time on our own bill. The fries there are amazing. We were apart on our third; it was the day of my grandmother's funeral and Damon had to stay behind to load up the moving truck - we were about to leave Boston for good. On our fourth, we were in Wismar and almost forgot about it entirely! And for our fifth, we decided to arrange a last-minute trip to Ireland, hoping to specifically hit the area where the aforementioned grandmother's grandparents were born, County Clare.
At first I was only thinking we'd get away with a weekend flying in somewhere nearby and whipping through Clare before returning, but we managed to block off a Thursday to Tuesday trip, leaving us four full days in Ireland! It's so much, and so little. We did a little research, then last night I tossed and turned. Do we just go to one area and really relax and soak it up the whole time? How about two areas - but how do we narrow it down? Or do we really push it and stay five nights in five different places, seeing everything we can on what might be our only chance to ever see Ireland?
Your average American takes the cram-it-all-in approach. This isn't because they're hyperactive or unappreciative of their surroundings (although some are - and not just Americans), it's because they don't get any vacation time. That little two-week all-of-Europe vacation they're doing? They saved up for that for months and months, working through seven illnesses and four family events across the country so they could do it. You better believe they don't feel they have any choice but to see it all now, because they won't get away again.
And hey, life is short! Why not see it all if it's feasible? You can argue for this even without bringing vacation time into the picture.
Your average travel snob, though, is thoroughly disgusted by the above approach and recommends taking one month to slowly move through one region of a country, lounging in the countryside or integrating himself into a city's scene, or whatever it is he or she is into, and really getting to know a region's culture. Those other people, they don't see anything! They need to slow down and enjoy life! Relax!!
That's pretty tempting, too. Isn't relaxing the point of vacation? It's no good to come back more stressed out than you were before you left. Sticking around in one place offers you more chances to start to interact with local people and get a feel for the area.
There are a couple of other types, too. There's the adventurer for whom a European vacation is totally lame. All of Europe is practically the same. You haven't seen jack until you've been to the jungle, the desert, the Himalayas, or any destination that requires 20-25 new vaccinations and prophylactic medications. And finally, there's the check-off list traveler. They have a long list of countries and they are marking them off or coloring them in as they go, trying to rack up the number as high as possible. You might identify them because they are itchy to cross a nearby border just to cross it, they are obsessed with hitting small countries like Andorra and Liechtenstein despite all warnings to the contrary that these places are not interesting, or they've just been to capital city after capital city to hit a country, then never returning there again, fickle as can be. My husband hates the country-collector attitude, but I sympathize with it. I would usually rather go to a country I haven't seen yet than one I have, so I can hear a new language all around, see signs in it, etc. Even crossing a border allows this. But he argues you can never really get a feel for a place's culture if you're just out collecting. That could also be true.
We still haven't decided what to do about Ireland. We could go and wing it, but several things I've read say at this time of year it is best to book in advance because it's high season. There's nothing worse than driving around in circles at 10 at night desperately searching for any place with a room you can have, no matter the cost or type of room. I have several memories of doing that, and some are sort of entertaining, but the stories usually didn't end well.
A slow-paced County Clare/Galway/Aran Islands trip? A Galway-Connemara-Aran Islands-County Clare-Dingle-Cork-Kilkenny extravaganza? I'll report back in a couple of weeks after we've been there...
What kind of traveler are you? What would you do? What characterized your favorite vacation?