Let’s explore something rarely endorsed in the travel industry — short-term travel. Some travelers scoff at the thought of spending only a few days in one destination; they want the full cultural experience and to discover off-the-beaten path locations. I consider myself a traveler who seeks culture-filled travels and am a firm advocate of short-term travel. Surprised? I was too when I realized my stance, but I like to think of short-term travel as phase one travel.
What Is Phase One Travel?
Phase one travel is an introduction to one city or one country. Most phase one travelers spend a few days in one city or country. This type of travel is in contrast to extended travel, in which a traveler typically spends several weeks or more in one destination.
We’ve seen “phase one” in many areas of daily life. College or high school orientations, job interviews, and even decorating your home.
Many travelers travel this way without realizing. Backpacking across any continent or participating in an extended group tour are examples of phase one travel. In each of these scenarios, travelers jump from city-to-city over a short period of time.
Why Phase One Travel?
Perhaps the biggest attraction to phase one travel is not wasting resources. Imagine elaborately planning a lengthy trip to one location, then feeling indifferent to it. This disappointing and financially wasteful feeling can be prevented with phase one travel. If you dislike a particular country or city, you can still see the main sights and only have to wait a couple days until leaving.
On the flip side, phase one travel introduces destinations which you could spend weeks or months in. Leaving without feeling accomplished in a destination provides good reason to quickly return.
Phase one travel is perfect for full-time workers or students who have limited time to travel. If you’re stuck with a two-week vacation each year, then with phase one travel you’re able to visit several destinations in a short period of time.
Essentially, phase one travel allows travelers to determine which destination they really “click” with so that future time and resources can be spent predominantly in this particular area.
Cons to Phase One Travel
Due to limited time in each destination, the culture is not fully experienced. Many travelers seek cultural interactions while traveling, and not accessing them can make-or-break an adventure. With the sharing economy, however, experiencing the culture in a short period of time becomes possible. An entire culture can’t be experienced in three days, but getting the inside scoop from locals needs only a few hours. Plus, leaving the destination with knowledge gaps leaves you wanting to return.
Hopping from city-to-city over the course of a couple weeks is expensive. All those train tickets, flights, taxis to and from the airport, and hostels add up. Packing everything you want to see or do into a few days dramatically increases costs, whereas dividing those same activities across a couple weeks spreads out costs and decreases the overall daily cost. AirBnB and many hostels offer discounts for travelers staying three weeks or longer, therefore budget travelers often establish roots in one destination in order to cut costs.
Getting to the airport, flying, getting to the hostel, smashing several sights into a couple days, and getting back to the airport becomes exhausting after only one time. Now imagine multiplying this routine several times. Burnout becomes a very real possibility when globetrotting on a tight and packed schedule. Phase one travel is a common cause to burnout due to bopping around for an extended period of time.
Pre-departure planning for several destinations with little room for mistake is exhausting. If pre-departure burnout was a thing, it would be caused by phase one travel.
Before traveling more frequently, I dreamed of spending great lengths of time in faraway places. Three weeks in Ecuador, one month in Vietnam, six months in Australia…you get the idea. I believed the best way to travel is by leaving no stone uncovered.
Spending three weeks in London (and its suburbs) changed my perspective on phase one travel. London left me feeling confused. I enjoyed London and could certainly return some time, but I would’ve liked to have seen other parts of the United Kingdom during my stay. Instead my entire three weeks were filled with pre-planned activities. I ensured to leave plenty of downtime each day to prevent burnout, but this also left little time to explore outside of London.
My short time in Helsinki and Tallinn converted me to phase one travel. Although a beautiful city with a fantastic food scene, Helsinki had me feeling “meh” the whole time. True, I was unable to experience the culture at its fullest with only my one full day there. I believe that was plenty of time to get the general feel of the city and there is nothing wrong with not loving a destination.
Tallinn, on the other hand, captivated my mind. Everything about Old Town left me joyful. Yet, my two days in Tallinn were plenty. I would like to return some day, but not immediately. I saw what I wanted to see and left satisfied.
Three days in Spain left me wanting more. I have not discussed my time in Spain on the blog, so I’ll fill you in. Everything about Spain spoke wonders to me — food, people, culture, architecture, language, adventure, and more. Next time I return to Europe, my itinerary must include another stop in Spain, this time for much longer.
Is phase one travel better or worse than other types of travel? Not at all. Every traveler has their preferences and must decide what is best for their travel goals.
Is phase one travel right for you?