I was in Tallahassee over the weekend to speak to legislators about not cutting funding for a mentoring program that the Girl Scouts does in Florida. While I was there, I got into a conversation with a woman that has done a bit more traveling then I have and she started talking about cities that she had been to in North America. She mentioned cities like San Francisco, Quebec City and Seattle. As she went along, I mentioned I had been to those cities too, but only for a day. By the time we got to talking about Los Angeles (yep, only been there a day) it became a silly running joke that it was impossible for me to stay anywhere longer then a day.
After that conversation, I started thinking about the places I had only been to for a day and could think of at least half a dozen cities that I had only visited for about a day. In most cases, I had only scratched the surface of what that city had to offer. After all, there’s only so much terrority that I can cover in one day. But is it really worthwhile to stop in those cities at all if I couldn’t see everything?
Many of the cities that I visited were either the start or end point of a much longer trip. Back in 2007 I went on a hiking trip with people from all over the world. The tour started in San Francisco and ended in Los Angeles. When I was making arrangements, I could have chosen just to fly in a few hours before the tour started and skipped seeing San Fran. But since I was going to be in the area, I figured I would give myself a day to see the place before leaving. I’m glad I did. I got to visit the bay, walk along the pier, see crooked Lombard Street and walk through Chinatown. There was so much that I missed- like visiting Alcatraz, crossing over the Golden Gate bridge, or visiting the surrounding wine country. But now I know what I want to see if I get to go there again.
In other cases, I went to a city for a day simply because it was close and I didn’t know when I’d be near the city again. In 2000, I spend a week in Montreal doing some volunteer work there. At the end of the week, myself and several of the volunteers decided to go visit Quebec City to see what it was like. We didn’t know if or when any of us would be back that way again. Sure enough, 9 years later, I still haven’t made it back that way, so I’m glad I saw what I could there.
Sometimes I’ve spent a week in a city and just want to see what’s different on a return trip. Las Vegas is a perfect example of this. I was there for a week during a family vacation and enjoyed seeing the strip and the shows there. A few years later, I was there for a day. It was nice to see what was new and what was gone. But I wouldn’t have wanted to stay for much more then a day simply because I have already seen much of what I wanted to see.
Finally, I sometimes visit a city for a day because I just don’t know if it’s really a place that I want to spend more time in. When I was in Los Angeles for a day, I saw most of the touristy stuff- and I was done. To be honest, I didn’t like LA all that much. It’s too sprawly for me. Last year I visited the small town of Lancaster, PA to see some of the Dutch country. Since it is a small town, it was easy to visit the few highlights like the farmer’s market and an Amish museum. One day was a perfect amount of time to see the place without feeling rushed or bored.
Visiting cities for only a day does tend to leave me longing for more time in them. Most cities have much to offer and it will take more then a day to get past the tourist front and get to the heart of a place. But in the end, the woman that I was talking to at the beginning of this post said it best. “It’s better to go than not at all.”