I grew up in a big city, so when I started traveling I was attracted to nature-friendly destinations rather than metropolitan areas. But after leaving my cubicle job in Seoul to travel the world, I discovered that some of my most important travel memories were created in cities.
Visiting an exotic, “unknown” destination is exciting when you first begin a long-term trip. But there are some good reasons why we shouldn’t dismiss visiting cities during our travels.
City hopping isn’t my thing. But I intentionally include big cities in my itinerary every now and then because of the convenience. I always build up a list of things to be taken care of in the next city, and that normally includes health, tech and shopping.
Cities have a wide range of everything. I can’t fix my MacBook in the Chinese countryside because I need to know for sure if that is a legitimate place with a license. Cleaner and bigger pharmacies are usually in downtown areas, and I can always buy a new pair of good sandals and a backpack in a shopping mall. For me, traveling to cities is more of a necessity than a pleasure. Still, getting things done gives me much pleasure, so I can say it is for pleasure after all!
The Eiffel Tower, Times Square, the Colosseum and the Golden Gate Bridge: these are some of the most famous attractions in the world. Don’t miss out on these landmarks just because they are in a city.
I remember an article in a travel-related magazine that said, ‘you are missing out because you are a travel snob’. Travelers are getting more serious about going off-the-beaten track and don’t want to be a ‘tourist’. Everyone wants to find something unusual, just like the guy from The Beach.
But there is a reason why these sites, and cities themselves, have been visited for centuries. There’s nothing wrong being a ‘city tourist’ when you are visiting a new place!
I’m all about local eateries. I love neighborhood cafes without a menu, run by people who don’t speak English, and serving the same food that everyone else in town eats. Hygiene doesn’t weigh big on my decision.
But I need to pay extra attention to hygiene after I get sick and need to recover. A simple stomach bug can be quite hard to get over in a foreign country. There’s no white rice porridge or barley tea (what Koreans eat when we are sick). If I’m in a country where is hard to get my own kitchen facility, I need to find a hygienic place to eat.
There is nothing wrong with the quality of food in the countryside, but sometimes I need a dish cleaned with soap, purified water, clean restaurants without any insects, and a clean toilet. Depending on where I am, these things are easier to find it in the city than a rural area.
The major reason I like cities is their subway system. Not every city has one, but I take a full advantage of it if available. Seoul, my hometown and one of the biggest cities in the world, has an extensive public transportation system including Seoul Metro. Buses are quite convenient, and it is advantageous to people who like to be outside rather than underground. But I was always a fan of the subway.
Being punctual is an on-going battle for me, and the subway always helps me stay on schedule. The Metro is usually easier to figure out than buses, even in foreign countries, because it follows a set route and time schedule. And it’s far less likely to end up in the middle of nowhere.
1. City Style
Even if I go on a trip for three months, I always pack one set of nice clothes. I don’t know about you, but occasionally dressing up in the city excites me. It’s a way to treat myself!
I’m not the kind of girl who wears makeup everyday, because (A) it is quite impossible to wear makeup in a tropical weather, (B) most of my traveling clothes are not really fashionable, and (C) I have way more important things to worry about: checking the train schedule, finding a place to eat breakfast, packing my bag, and not leaving things behind (which I do quite often).
But there’s just something about dressing up nicely. Maybe because I grew up in a big city, I feel awkward not cleaning myself up to look nice in public. And I like it.
I don’t prefer cities to the countryside but I don’t avoid them. Even though its not my intention to visit cities, it feels natural.
– Juno Kim is the founder and editor of Runaway Juno, a travel blog detailing her worldwide adventures.