The Desire to See Everything

Otavalo, Ecuador

First time Jack and I went on a trip together, we did 6 countries in 6 weeks. We were young and filled with youthful optimism and energy. We can see everything there is to see if only we move faster.

Faster, faster, faster.

Jack and Jill at Valle de Cocora

If we had been going at the speed of that trip we took years ago we would’ve been in Argentina on our way to Africa right now. Instead, here we are trying to stay warm in chilly northern Ecuador.

If you have been following our trip from beginning you might notice that we move about slower than most others. We don’t stay for months, but we usually stay long enough to notice the 3-4 waves of travelers come and go at any given hostel.

It’s not a conscious decision. It wasn’t like we wrote it in our trip constitution: ‘We’re staying a minimum of 5 days at every single city.’

It just works out that way. (And no, we don’t really have a trip constitution, although it might’ve been a good idea?)

Part of it is because we have the luxury of time. Part of it is because packing and unpacking every day sucks. Part of it is because we’re old and long bus rides tire us.

But a big part of it is because we’ve accepted the fact that given a lifetime (or two or three) we still won’t be able to see everything we want to see in this world.

So why rush?

Years ago…

I remember feeling restless when standing in a barely moving line in Uffizi museum thinking ‘Gosh, at this rate we won’t be able to do the other museums I want to do.’

I remember cursing the fact that Italy has so many churches it’s impossible to see them all (and I wanted to see them all).

I remember that instead of being grateful of where I was, I was wondering what I was missing out on. Almost wishing I could already be on my next destination, ticking that mental checklist just a tad faster.

Whereever we happen to be, another destination seems to be more adventurous, have grander sceneries, have friendlier people, and more amazing.

We won’t be able to see everything we want to see in this world

Not in one lifetime. I’ve given up trying to see everything. Some might see it as a bad thing, but in reality it has lifted a big burden off my chest.

No more checklist and no more flitting about from one country to another as if our convertible-pants are on fire. No more beating myself up for missing a ‘must-see’ things in a country.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get antsy and I still get bored if we stay too long. And I still wonder what else is out there. That’s why we travel of course, because we wonder.

But no longer do I let that curiosity turn into greed.

No longer do I let it distract me from the now and the amazing and the beautiful things that could be right in front of me all along.

If this is the sign of age, so be it.

Tell us:

How have you noticed your travel style changed as you get older?


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35 Replies to “The Desire to See Everything”

  1. Ah Italy – I have no doubt it's hard to resist the urge to see as much as possible there. Every corner seems to hold some amazing architecture/church/museum or all three. For me, I can spend weeks or months in one destination but then I'll feel all guilty about it – still working on fighting that guilt 🙂

  2. FOMA (Fear of Missing Out) is pretty hard to beat even if you're in your hometown, never mind someplace like Italy that is chock full of beautiful sights and astounding experiences. I, too, find it hard to fight that urge to run around like a tourist with my head cut off, but I'm happy that I relax and spend weeks or months in all of my destinations. I find it easiest to do in Paris, perhaps because I know in my heart I'll keep returning all my life. For me I don't think slower travel is an age thing (I'm only 22!) but instead it's about knowing myself and controlling my attitude. I know that if I follow the impulse to move quickly, I am never any happier than when I slow down and fully absorb where I am in the moment.
    Great post, and beautiful photo!

  3. Good on you for travelling as long as you want! And for staying in a place longer if you want. We have friends who say they have seen all of Australia, so they travel overseas! Spent sometime travelling there and have seen all there is overseas !!! There is no-way anyone could see all of Australia nor any country. I have such itchy feet and am so looking forward to travelling for as long as we can.


  4. Thanks for the wise words. I can't agree more. We've learned so much about a place and about ourselves by taking our time and letting the place dictate our pace.

  5. Good for you for travelling slower. We usually spend a lot more time in each place than we are this year. We wanted to do a whirlwind trip and see lots of places – but I much prefer lingering or living in one location. We'll be back to slow travel and the expat life next year and are looking forward to it.

  6. It is remarkable how travel teaches us lessons that have little to do with our destinations, because what you point out can apply to any other area. Ansley and I have also slowed down our travel pace and have begun returning to favorite destinations rather than hurrying to see all and everything, as you put it.
    And here is another thought: you see more the more you change. The more mature and sensitive you become, the more will you glean from each destination. We should hurry to change, then, rather than travel to more places. Good luck.

  7. Really great point you guys make here and I like the real world examples you've given. Puts things in perspective that we can't see absolutely *everything* in the world. When I first moved to London I wanted to see as many European cities as I could on weekends, so was travelling twice a month and barely seeing any of my friends. Then I realised I should take my time with it and slowed down to max once a month.

  8. Love this post. It's so important to sit and take in what is around you at the moment, no rushing, no anxiety. That's why I feel my style of travel (staying up to a month in one location), works best for me. I know I won't be able to see everything this wonderful planet has to offer, but what I do get to see I want to make the most of it.

  9. Hey Guys, I really enjoyed this read and a this is the general realization from any long term traveler. I came to this realization many years ago and came up with a phrase that is now my travel motto/mantra.

    That phrase is 'The More You See, The Less You've Seen!'

    Basically translating to the more you travel, the bigger you realize the world really is. It's a never ending cycle. Not sure if you've been to Africa before, and exactly where in Africa you're going, but enjoy. Africa to me is the ultimate in travel and adventure. Stay safe…

  10. My travel style has definitely slowed down since I got older… which is funny seeing as my travel style wasn't particularly speedy to begin with. The first trip I ever took was to London — where I stayed put for 3 months (I think I might have taken a day trip to Surrey once… but I didn't really see much outside of London). Now 3 months seems too short to me. I've been in Asia for the past 4 1/2 years and I've only seen a fraction of the countries I want to see. At this rate, I may never leave Asia!

  11. Word.

    After 5 years on the road full time, we've just found that a slower pace makes long term travel more sustainable for us. There's no way we can see a new place, catch up with friends and family, run our business and take care of our personal needs if we are only in places measured in days. When we get into extended periods of quick pace travel, we always end up exhausted.

    We are making more and more of a conscious effort to slow it down and be in places for weeks or months now.

    That first year in the road tho. – so difficult to slow down the pace as there's just so darn much excitement and too many things to see and do.

  12. It's like you're in my head (again… hasn't this happened before?). I fall into the "must see it trap" all the time, but lately I've just had enough. It's tiring and stressful and I'm just getting too damn old to move somewhere new everyday. And I'm not even that old, lol!

    Our travel style has definitely shifted and matured; I think most peoples' do after a bit in order to find what's the most sustainable.

  13. You are so right! I used to be so upset when we visited somewhere and I didn't get through everything on my list. I still have a list of ideas of the things I want to see (I'm German after all :)), but if I don't get to see something or do something I just see it as a sign that I need to come back on day.

  14. Traveling slow is soo much better I have decided! As I've gotten older I definitely enjoy traveling a bit slower… I can at least remember the name and natural energy of each place. 🙂 When I was originally planning the south america part of my trip, I thought I would try to do Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina in the 3 months…..that was just crazy! Since, I have decided to split the 3 months only between Ecuador and Colombia, and I still feel like i don't have enough time here!!

  15. Absolutely. I was definitely the type to move at lightning speed. But the real reason for that is because I was "on vacation," not traveling. If I only have 1 or 2 weeks, of course I want to try to see a lot. That is why I'm so happy with my decision to take a year off and go see a part of the world at the pace I enjoy.

  16. Hi there,
    I've just discovered your blog and wanted to say that you have beautiful photos and funny and reflective posts. I'm a university student just back from a semester abroad, and your blog makes me want to take off for Colombia! I've never been to South America, and I'm looking forward to reading more about it here.


    1. Hi Amy, thanks so much for the compliments. Colombia has been a wonderful experience, if you decide to go there someday and have any questions – don't hesitate to let us know!

  17. You guys are doing it right!!! We did our 13 months abroad in a big hurry and I wouldn't want to give up one experience but I would want to have stretched it out. We were pooped in the end and now vow that when we take another career break, we will definitely stay longer and smell the roses. Love reading your posts.

  18. Just found your blog and am really enjoying following along. This post especially rings true as we just pushed through Colombia at top speed! Slowing down is so important. My husband and I are traveling the PanAm and I think we're right on your tail! Would love to run into you if we catch up. Happy travels!

  19. I have noticed that I can no longer travel several time zones away, hope out of the plane, and bounce around the country or city I came to see. I definitely need transit recovery time! I also am perfectly happy now, at the ripe age of 30, to just go to bed instead of trying to find the hot party. Not saying I don't appreciate a wild night out every once in a while, but I appreciate the good sleep more 😉

    1. "hop" out of the plane, not hope. Although I do hope to get out of the plane sooner rather than later, so I guess it applies.

  20. I'm with you 100%. I think the greatest benefit to the longer term stay is that you can get into the flow of life, make friends, and actually figure out what's going on. People can and should travel however they want, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't frustrate me to see people traveling just to check off boxes. I like your approach much better! Take care, Phil

  21. This is exactly how Bob likes to travel- new place to get to, new people to meet, new adventures ahead! It is definitely a type of travel that takes a second to get used to!

    Now we try to have a little of both- run around and then relax for a few days, Planning a couple extra days in a city helps us to have this balance!

  22. I've made the same discovery while traveling – and while attending music festivals, for that matter. My first time at Lollapalooza I ran around like a maniac and saw 50 bands that weekend (less than an hour of each.) Now I take it slower and see fewer bands but get to enjoy each one longer. I make similar choices when traveling.

  23. Like you two, I did the speed traveling when I was young, 8 countries in 5 weeks. NUTS. I can definitely say that Tree and I have slowed down in age, but in a good way: We´ve learned to appreciate where we are in the moment instead of always racing to get somewhere else. The other significant change is that I now wear flip flops or walking shoes instead of the five inch heeled boots that I wore across Europe. Love your blog!! Glad we found you guys!

  24. Thanks for this one. I spend every trip I go on reminding myself to slow down. Someday I hope to be able to take longer trips (look at me, I'm complaining about the month or two long trips I take now). I am getting better with age, but the compulsion to see everything drives me everyday.

    Enjoying your blog so much! Safe travels.

  25. Great article and one that I do agree with. I think this rush is why a lot of people don't like a certain place. I see quite a few people land in Paris and cram in all that Paris has to offer in 2 very short days and then come home and say they hated Paris! Sometimes I think the rush takes away from a destination instead of adding to the trip.

    I like to slow it down and really explore.

  26. If Colombia has taught me anything, it's to slow down, enjoy each moment instead of rushing about trying to do everything. In London I was the complete opposite. Rush, rush, rush. But you're right. Even in multiple lifetimes, we'd never see everything, so instead of glimpsing a million things quickly, it's better to stick around and soak something up and enjoy it thoroughly. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  27. Completely agree with you. We know we are not going to be able to see everything this world has to offer, so we enjoy wherever we are at the moment. We'll just try and see as much as we can, but at our pace. When we are ready to leave a certain location, then we leave. That's the beauty of living this sort of lifestyle right?

    Oh and trip constitution, that's funny 😉

  28. I love it. I've always been go, go, go. In travel, in life… But recently I've just wanted to slow it down. Right now, little appeals to me more than slow travel – going to a whole places and settling in an apartment for a minimum of 1 month. Not only does it give you the opportunity to really get to know a place, but it saves on accommodation and travel and makes those precious dollars go even further!

  29. I just want to say that you two don't look all that old to me. I guess everything is relative, LOL.

    I absolutely hate wasting time, which sometimes lends itself to a tendency to rush through travel experiences. If I'm enjoying something, then I can be there indefinitely, but if I'm bored. Yeah–I'm outta there.

    As I've gotten older, however, I have found that I've wanted to stop and linger longer in the places we travel. In fact, our unspoken "trip constitution" (LOVE that term by the way–now I want to write one) is to spend no less than six weeks on any given location. It gives us time to fully soak up the energy of a new place and it's great to have a base for day trips.

  30. "We won’t be able to see everything we want to see in this world" spot on… when i first backpacked last 2009.. i tried to see as much as i can and it was exhausting … i hate to say this but looking back… i was so tired and didnt enjoy it at all… now that im back on the road again, im trying to take things slower… spending a month in each place that i go to and just enjoy being there…

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