I lightly touched on this in my last post (see: 21 Hours Later), but I feel it is a necessary post for us travel-hungry adventurers.
The question? Well…it’s kinda like “Where have you been?” followed by, “Well, have you really been there?” It all comes down to each person’s own definition of visitation and whatever they can sleep with at night…but I beg to ask, what does it really take to have been somewhere.
Does it simply require driving through? Must you get out and step foot on the ground? How about something as trivial as coasting through the airport on a 40-min stopover? Do you need to be there for a day to really experience that place? Do you need to spend a whole vacation there? Heck, can you just fly over it?
As you can see from my travel map above (go to TripAdvisor.com to make your own) – I’ve been to quite a few places in the US and Canada (and Greenland is marked as a place I’d like to go, I haven’t been there yet). My definition, as you might expect from looking at 530 mashed up dots (the website doesn’t have every little town – I’d probably be double that) is rather loose. All it takes for me to count a town or city (or even state) as visited is to drive right on through. I mean seriously, I’m in the city limits – that has to be good enough. Plus, who is actually going to stop at every single small town and spend and hour or two when got bigger fish to fry (as in more places to go and see).
Now this doesn’t mean I haven’t stopped to smell the roses (or asphalt, if I’m getting out of my car to refuel). I’ve taken numerous trips where I stop for hours, days and even weeks at a time at a certain place. Sure those are the memorable ones, but so is driving past the state border at Vermont or when anyone mentions Cobleskill, NY I would immediately remember being rerouted through the town as the Fourth of July festivities began. Sure, half the towns one flies through on any given road are forgotten as soon as one leaves, but you still get a sense of the drive on through and you can’t deny having been through town, whether you truly remember the name or one landmark in the vicinity.
The weakest definition of “being there”, for me, has got to be the airport visit. By simply visiting an airport (or sitting on a cruise ship during a port of call), has one really visited that area? Sure, an airport may be representative of the place it is located in (via gift shops or local food offerings), but is a short stopover really worth chalking up as a visit? To this I say probably, but with a word of caution. As I try to collect all 50 states (at 31) and 13 provinces/territories (at 6 and for my own adventurer’s sake I have to split Newfoundland and Labrador, so 14) I currently rely on this airport crutch. Why? The airport stopover has helped me pick up Georgia (Atlanta), Texas (Dallas) and Kentucky (Thanks to Cincinnati for putting its airport in Hebron, KY) as well as the Netherlands (Amsterdam).
Why would I include these? Well, I’m inside the state’s borders aren’t I? That can’t be denied. However, I had no intention of flying through these areas (does anyone really intend on specific stopovers just to see an airport) like a driver might control his path from point A to B. However, if I get any further opportunities to grant these state a more official visit, I will do so, if only to put to rest the arguments some people make that “airports don’t count.”
Here’s another one for you: Pittsburgh, PA. My only experience with the city came on an Amtrak train that rode through in the middle of the night enroute to Chicago from D.C. I opened the curtain on my window to see most of the Pittsburgh skyline and the rivers. I’m there, in Pittsburgh, seeing it with my own eyes. But should this be counted? I didn’t count any other town along the way (nor do I on Amtrak treks), but when I think of Pittsburgh, I certainly remember seeing it at night, all lit up. It’s a tough call for me. Would you count Pittsburgh if you flew over it (and I have seen Pittsburgh from the sky at night)? Of course not. But this is slightly different. I have yet to make a final decision and would prefer to one day just visit the Steel City and call it a day.
Do you have any specific requirements for having “been there”? What are your guidelines?