Travelers tend to make quick judgments about the places they visit as soon as they arrive. It’s a practice that allows one to quickly adapt to different environments and puts a focus on first impressions. The first differences you see, hear, and experience as you leave the airport or drive across a border. We’re told that first impressions are the most important but much of what we learn about a place occurs when we’re getting ready to leave.
Suddenly the destination behind us becomes familiar while the road ahead is the unknown. Don’t neglect the final moments and make the most out of your last impressions by slowing down to notice them.
Focus On The Process
Reflecting on the changes of your perceptions about a given place from the first moment to the last, lets you to appreciate the familiar before you leave. You can experience sites, restaurants, and towns more like a local by revisiting places you’ve been and not cramming your final moments trying to see everything you haven’t. It’s tougher to do on shorter trips but spending some time to reflect before you jet off will extend and enrich your experience.
Reconnect Before You Disconnect
Explore the things you haven’t tried, foods and places for example, in those final days. Those are the things you’re most likely to remember. Don’t be satisfied with first impressions or base you conclusions on them alone. If you happen to be staying in a resort get out of it to see the area just outside or visit a local market and chat with people. How many times have you been somewhere and not spoken in depth with someone who lived there?
- Frequent travelers strive to absorb all they can in constant motion but can neglect to see the things only visible when you slow down or simply stop.
The process and change that occurs between your first and last impressions – and observing that process – will give you more insight into the local culture and yourself as well. Your final moments in a place are the best ones to look back right before you have to look forward, don’t disregard them.
[photos by: Peter Kaminski (goodbye stop), [Magec] (man with SLR)]
The more traveling you do at one time (as in, without taking breaks in-between your trips) the less likely you are to actually realize the changes in the cultures you’re passing through. Sometimes it’s important to as you say, step back and simply take in the subtleties of each place you travel to.
I think I made this mistake during my inter rail trip around Europe .. it was a whirlwind month and in hindsight I wish I would have slowed down. Of course I would have preferred more time, but even given the budget I was on, I could and should have stepped back a bit more to take in the countries I traveled through.
I agree, it’s certainly tough when you’re on the go. The idea for this post hit me when I realized I had one foot in my next destination before even leaving. When I caught that moment I slowed down, something I try to catch myself on from time to time.
You are so right about letting the last impressions sink in- rather than just basing everything on what we first thought or felt. Things can change if we give them a second change…some things actually ‘grow’ on you when you are more open to them.
Funny how that happens and some places just grow on you if you let them 🙂
This is a great post and something I don’t think enough people pay attention to. I too have fallen victim to the cram it all in type of trips. Everytime I look back on different trips though I always remember the times that I sat around and did nothing. Watching the movie Hitch on this teeny, tiny tv in Guatemala, watching people and drinking Michelada’s for hours on end in Oaxaca, getting sick and having to stay in the hotel for my entire trip to New Orleans. Of course the sick part sucked but my dad and I had a lot of fun doing nothing. The times I always remember the best in a new place are usually the laying low times, instead of running around trying to get everything in. I’m adding you to my blog list too right now. Sorry I forgot to add you earlier – I just realized now you weren’t on it and you definitely need to be because I always love your posts!
Hi Bethany, thank you for the kind words and adding me to your blog roll. I’ve added you as well to my links page.
I’m with you, sometimes it’s nice to sit around and just relax, which ironically can be hard to do for many people when they travel. I guess we all fall prey to it from time to time. I too got pretty sick on my last trip to Ecuador and couldn’t do much but the nice thing was being forced to slow down and enjoy a few lazy days.
Hey Anil – I particularly like the advice about re-visiting places during the last few days and not trying to run around checking every last thing off of an endless list of things to do or see. Sometimes all it takes is returning to the one restaurant you enjoyed during your first week (and being warmly welcomed by the same staff) to finally create that solid connection with a particular destination that makes travel so rewarding.
If we run around trying to cram it all in, we may have a few hundred extra photos to share with others, but before we know it we’ll be back at home without ever having taken a moment to appreciate our adventures.
If you move too fast, when you return home (or to the next destination) it’s easy to feel like you were never there.
I relive my memeories of the places I’ve visited, every time I write a blog post
A great way to document, share, and remember all of the places you’ve traveled!
That is excellent advice. I had never thought about really taking note of our final impressions. While I tend to write about a place after we have left it, I have never really thought about if I am writing about my first impression or last impression. You have given me something to think about. What do I remember about a place that I have visited? First, last, or combination of both?
Interesting question – I too wonder what would a post be like if you rewrote it months later…
Slowing down may not always be an option but there are usually times to review one’s thoughts, be it on a walk to get breakfast, riding transport and so on. Quite often, I make up lists in my head before going to sleep… 🙂
One of the reasons I always keep pen and paper handy before bed, seems to be a creative peak time for the mind 🙂
Blogging and photography are good for first and last impressions. I sift through my pictures and notice the differences from my first day in a new place to my last day there. Often I’m more relaxed or comfortable being around the people and my perspective changes. Slowing down can help, but sometimes it doesn’t.
Haven’t though to do that with the pictures I’ve taken, I’ll give it shot to see the transition.
I think this is a good idea. I’ve often reflected on my time traveling somewhere and I notice that the best time to do this is when you are leaving. The place is still fresh in your mind. It is also interesting to note your impression of the place as you are arriving versus the impression you have as you are leaving.
You can tell a lot about your perceptions of a place by the things you feel you’ll miss right before you leave and the things you’re looking forward to at your next destination. It is, as you note, interesting and enlightening to look at the transition of an entire stay.