He Said/She Said: Skipping “Sights to See”

He Said/She Said: Skipping “Sights to See”


Even though we’re on a long trip with nowhere we need to be, we shouldn’t do everything that makes it into a travel guide.  Sure, we could, but is it really worth being on a bus daily?  Travel is tiring, each time we choose to see something off the beaten path, we need to pack our bags, haggle for a ride to the bus station, get jostled around the rough roads, then orientate ourselves in a new city.  This isn’t something I want to do day-in-day-out.  This trip, with an open-ended itinerary, allows us much more flexibility to get off the beaten path, but still requires prioritization to make it fun.

While there are many things to see, to me, many things don’t justify a visit.  This is hard for LOCAVORista, she wants to see every “sight”, hike to every hilltribe, and see every temple.  She has, in a good way, caused me to see much more than I would on my own, but she goes overboard. The list of things we’ve seen can be broken down into some amazing, many not.  There is generally a reason something draws tourists and gets on the tourist trail: it’s interesting.  There is a reason that many things are not on the trail: they don’t justify a trip across a country in their own right. Seeing everything in a guidebook inevitably brings you to many places that aren’t worth the trip.

We recently went to the Plain of Jars in Phonsovan, Laos. These are basically enormous stone vases that lack a known history. It took us 7 hours off the main tourist trail. Between you and me, these jars are basically a field of shaped boulders. Nothing more. The time and energy required to see this site, and many others like it, doesn’t reward you with a great experience.

Wow, exciting, aren’t they?  Especially when it requires spending a day on a motorcycle in the rain.

Even on a trip like this, you can’t see it all. No worries though, not everything is worth your time anyway.


When we decided to embark on a trip around the world with no time constraints I was thrilled that I would be able to see it all and really get a feel for new places and cultures by getting off the beaten track.  I am an all or nothing person, so if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it all out.  This is the good news and the bad news, just ask thinkCHUA.  It’s always hard for me to justify skipping anything because we’re in Laos (insert current country) after all and when will we ever be in Laos (insert current country) again?  But dragging thinkCHUA to places that I can’t justify skipping is tough when he has a million reasons to skip it.  Usually the number one reason to skip anything is to take a nap.

I have to admit traveling is tiring and getting a nap in now and then is much better than sight seeing to one more temple, but that thought always creeps in “what if it’s the best temple.”  I am much more willing than thinkCHUA to rise at dawn or endure rough roads to see something I believe will be amazing.  Admittedly many of the things I am sure will be unforgettable end up being skippable, but if I hadn’t gone I would wonder if I had made a grave mistake.  The Plain of Jars in Phonsavan could be the next wonder of the world and we would have skipped it due to a three hour bus ride each way.  I would be kicking myself for years to come.

All of these excursions whether the destination lives up to it’s guidebook description or not take you off the beaten path and usually leave you with a great story and allow us to get a little deeper look at a country.  For this reason alone I will always lobby for a visit to the lesser known locales.  In Phonsavan for example we met a Texan couple that we rented motorcycles with and ended up off-roading to Buddha’s burial place and getting very muddy in the process.  We ate at a local noodle shop with the local people where we had to go to the kitchen to communicate our order.  Not only did we see breath taking scenery via motorcycle, that was arguably the highlight of our time in Laos, but we enjoyed an authentic view of the Lao people.  The Plain of Jars may not be a sight that I would recommend to other travelers, but an experience I’m glad we had.

I know you can’t see it all, but I will continue to drag thinkCHUA off the beaten path now and then to change it up and in fairness we do take our share of rest days.  We even skip things now and again that I still wonder if we missed out on, but I’m getting better at realizing it is impossible to do it all.  Besides you always need a good reason to come back.

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» Kate C :
Apr 6, 2011

Ooh, good debate. I tend to lean with Matt on this one. I too skipped the plane of jars, although I was curious about them. I tend to not remember the names of places I went, so I don’t know if I missed the “big thing”, but I love my memories of where ever I did go. I also greatly enjoyed the 8 days I spent planted on Koh Tao, Thailand, and the 5 days in Hoi An, Vietnam, just because I got to unpack, spread out, and wake up in the same place every day! Those types of breaks need to happen every once in a while.

But, taking Erica’s side, when are you going to ever be back? I never expected to head back, and since I am getting the opportunity to in a few days, I find myself thinking of the sights I skipped that I can now go experience. So I suggest a compromise: split up :-)

Seriously, Erica, leave Matt napping for a day or two! The only travel I know is solo travel, so I’m used to not checking with someone else when I want to go somewhere. This upcoming trip with Jeff should be interesting…! I bet some solo adventures would be nice for you guys, and you’d have more to talk about when you join back up.

LOCAVORista Reply:

Kate, thanks for the advice I do leave Matt napping my fair share of the time. He still looks through Luang Prabang photos for example and asks where was that? since he was sleeping or taking it easy. We have also taken several days here and there to see or do things that one of us interested in and the other is not. As we continue to travel I am sure we will get better at this balance.

» dad :
Apr 8, 2011

great advice Kate, but that is our daughter your sending out to the wolves……lol…….no surprise on my end here…….i have still lived longer with erica than you matt and you bought this one; high energy, see it all, do it all and live it all……so her side is all hers and the naps are all yours…..”Snooky” will slow you down, lots of naps to be had in that laid back environment……..don’t smack that puke old man in the chaise lounge next to you by the way, it is what it is, i concluded……finally, life is all about balance and compromise, no marriage advice on this end……would like to take the stance that you won’t return, but am pretty sure, that is not going to happen, as travel appears to be your blood…..be safe no matter where your travels take you….love you……dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, we have slowed down a bit while in Snooky. We spent the last two days on a small island off the coast of Cambodia with a pristine private beach and did basically nothing. So, don’t worry thinkCHUA gets what he wants even if I do drag him on several of my manic sight seeing days.

» Donna :
Apr 9, 2011

Well, I can’t resist a good discussion … Being the “old lady on the single travel circuit.” I’m on day 3 of the solo part of my European adventures, and while I miss having my friends by my side, I am still enjoying that feeling of independent travel. My friends were with me for two weeks and we didn’t really split up too much during that time. But they were “tagging along” on my trip. I, on the other hand, was trying to make it a very special trip since it could be their last trip over. We saw a lot of my favorite places … And a lot of places I hadn’t been, or hadn’t been to in decades. Traveling with others is a real test … You need to know when to step back, and when to split up. It appears we were successful in sharing so much time together … It doesn’t always end up that way.

For you two, marriage has made you “one” … but you are still individuals … don’t be afraid to do your “thing!”

Now I’m going down to the hotel computer to seem if I can send out another epostcard. I’ve done the repack to see if everything fits. Now I think I’ll go roam the streets of Munich and maybe end up at the Hofbrauhaus!


LOCAVORista Reply:

Donna, we are both pretty independent and are happy to do our own “thing” and we will split up occasionally, but actually we are incredibly compatible travelers. I agree with you that there isn’t anything like traveling independently where every choice on the trip is yours. Enjoy the last few days of your Europe trip and have a drink for me at the Hofbrauhaus.

» Long Nguyen :
Dec 9, 2011

Admittedly, I find it really interesting to go off the beaten path like you guys do. The less known places sometimes bring us incomparable experience. These may not only the stone jars like such in Laos, but also the people, the cuisine and every other amazing things. I’ve been following your off-the-beaten-track journeys. :)
Greetings from Vietnam.

LOCAVORista Reply:

Long, thanks for your comment and for backing me up on seeing the lesser known places. The stone jars in Phonsavan may not have been the highlight of our trip to Laos, but the ride to and from them offered stunning scenery we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Glad to hear that you enjoy following our travels, as you have probably read on our site we love Vietnam and can’t wait to go back!

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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