A hardcore traveler sees the nitty-gritty. A true culture lover eats street food and seeks out the holes in the wall. A traveler revered by other self-proclaimed travel lovers packs light, sees the out-of-the-way towns and villages, and travels by the least luxurious route possible (foot preferred, followed by donkey, see below). They spend enough time in the country to get to know it without a map and to pick up a couple key phrases in the local language (see: “please,” “thank you,” “how much?” and “two more”).
A weekend trip to one city for the sake of checking off a country on your Places I’ve Been List does not, in any way, fall into the Hardcore Traveler category.
In order to enjoy the experience, though, I had to break out of a fundamental traveler’s mindset that seeing one city at a time is not sufficient. As the argument goes, setting foot on soil does not mean you’ve visited a county. And visiting the capital (even more than once) does not mean you know a country well (a person could not know all of Moldova if he/she never visited the countryside, after all). And, most obnoxious of all claims: stopping through an airport on a layover does not mean you’ve visited a country.
For me, the weekend trip has been a way to reconnect with friends who have scattered around the country, especially since I, too, am enjoying being in America (semi-frequent travel itch doesn’t count). Over the past seven months, it’s meant an enormous amount that I’ve been able to fly up to San Francisco for the weekend, to New Orleans for a couple nights, or to Atlanta for a conference. Of course, much of this has been for work, but it’s changed my mindset about how long one must be gone in order to consider a trip worthwhile.
In fact, there are those who have long touted the “stay in one place for a while” motto, mocking those who jump from city to city every other day. There is a real joy in focusing on where you are today rather than where you will be tomorrow. Yet, I didn’t know how to conjoin those two desires now that travel was within America. Domestic travel felt somehow foreign. I had been viewing American states as mini countries, eager to explore them but determined to see as much of each state as possible. But this isn’t Europe. I’m an American living in America with the likelihood of traveling back to any particular state on any other occasion. Thus, I have redefined my travel expectations: One city at a time.