The most important travel lesson I have learnt

There is nothing wrong with doing nothing.

It is so simple. Seven words, yet it took me more than seven years to realise that there is nothing wrong with doing nothing on holiday. I think some people still struggle with this.

The defining moment for me came during a nearly two week trip to Greece. I spent four nights in Athens before flying to Crete, staying in Kissamos. I wanted to hike Samaria Gorge and a colleague recommended Elafonissi and Balos beaches. The (Football) World Cup was on at the same time I was in Kissamos, so my time was also divided up watching the football. Samaria Gorge was lovely. I visited Elafonissi, which was lovely, but I will admit to part of me wanting to return to the hotel a lot earlier than I eventually did. With three days left in Kissamos, I had bought an open boat ticket to Balos Beach.

There is nothing wrong with doing nothing.

But I wanted to spend my final three days by the swimming pool. Taking a walk down to the sea-front to the restaurants and tavernas at my own leisure. I wanted to do nothing and for the first time in my adult life, I think I realised that was okay.

I have always ‘made the most’ of my time travelling and on holidays. But ‘made the most’ has traditionally meant trying to do and see as much as possible, sometimes in quite a limited period of time. Even travelling for a number of months, the planning stages were usually discussing how far we could travel, how many places we could visit. I now realise making the most of my time can include a week just sitting by a pool with a book and a few bottles of beer. It can, but it doesn’t always have to mean seeing everywhere, doing everything. It is all about doing exactly how much or how little you want.

If I were to re-do my longer travels now, I would pick a start and improvise the rest. If I were to re-do my shorter trips, perhaps I wouldn’t have stressed too much over where I went, maybe pay less attention to what attractions or sights lay in the surround areas.

I now realise making the most of my time can include a week just sitting by a pool with a book and a few bottles of beer.

Yes, your choice of destination may be a question to ask yourself if you travel 18 hours over two days and three flights, not to snorkel or diving in the nearby barrier reef and instead spend time by the pool, when a similar experience could have been found two hours and a fraction of the cost from home. I was part-guilty of this – okay I had already been out snorkelling for two full days, but I still decided to cancel a third day and instead do nothing by the pool.

But there is nothing wrong with this.

There shouldn’t be any pressure to visit places, do the things everyone else thinks you can’t miss out on but secretly you really don’t want to. Not feeling any guilt over not posting an iconic landmark on Instagram or regretting you’ve spent 10 days not really moving too much. Too often I read top travel tips, travelling hacks, fifty destinations to visit before you die.

But sometimes I think I just needed an article to remind me to just to do what I want, whatever that may be doing or not.

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