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A Better Way to Travel: Phase One Travel

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Some travelers scoff at the thought of spending less than three days at one destination because they want the “full cultural experience.” Yet, most people only have about ten days of vacation annually. It’d be tragic if they spent that entire time in one city, trying to achieve the “right way” to travel, and end up hating their one break in the year. This is why I encourage full-time students and employees to pursue phase one travel.

What Is Phase One Travel?

Phase one travel is short-term travel with the intention of introducing the traveler to that city or country so they can get an idea if it’s a place they’d like to return to and more intensely explore.

We’ve seen the concept of “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 it. A grand Europe trip or multi-country group tour are examples of phase one travel.

If you’re spending time in a city for less than three days, it can be considered as short-term travel. I believe all short-term travel is phase one travel. Even if your intention wasn’t to phase one travel, once you leave a city you’ll have decided if you’ll return to the city one day or not. This decision–to return or not to return–is the point of phase one travel.

Why Phase One Travel?

Phase one travel is perfect if you’re scared of wasting your hard-earned money on a lengthy trip you’re unsure you’ll enjoy. For example, I wanted to be a “real traveler” and intensely explore London for three weeks. I barely ventured outside of the city giving me enough time to tackle a big chunk of London. Unfortunately, I realized quickly London isn’t my type. I’m sure I’ll return one day, but I didn’t need three weeks in the city. I could’ve spent my limited college student funds on an adventure more suitable for me.

Phase one travel is perfect for full-time students and employees since we have limited funds and time. Spend one vacation exploring an area so, for the next vacation, you know exactly which cities you click with.

Cons to Phase One Travel

Since phase one travel limits your time in the destination, you can’t fully explore the local culture and may walk away with an inaccurate perception of it. Thankfully the sharing economy makes it easier than ever to experience the local culture in a short period of time. From cooking classes, talking with Uber drivers, and free walking tours with locals, you can quickly get the inside scoop.

Unfortunately, phase one travel may cost more money because it increases inter-city transportation costs. All those train tickets, flights, and taxis to and from the airport quickly add up. Cramming everything you want to see or do into a few days dramatically increases vacation costs, whereas dividing those same activities across a couple of weeks spreads out costs and decreases the overall daily cost. Plus, you’re missing out on long-term stay discounts offered at many accommodations. All of the coordination increases risk of traveler burnout.

But, think of the better travel experience you’ll have if you get out of a city you dislike.

My Experience

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 was by leaving no stone uncovered.

As I mentioned earlier, spending three weeks in London changed my perspective on phase one travel.

My perception of phase on travel continued to evolve as I spent a short amount of time in different cities throughout Russia and other countries.

Helsinki officially converted me when I realized I felt “meh” the whole time and was happy I hadn’t booked for a longer stay. Although I wasn’t able to experience the culture to its fullest in one day, it was plenty of time for me to realize this small city wasn’t my type. Which is okay!

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 someday, 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. Thanks to my few days of phase one travel in Spain, I can now confidently book a longer vacation to Spain knowing it’ll be magical.

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. But, sometimes travelers compete about how many countries they’ve visited, how long they’ve stayed there, or who got the more local experience. None of this matters as long as you’re fulfilling your travel goals and being a responsible traveler! I’m here to tell you, it’s okay to phase one travel.


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