“Why would you plan a trip to Philadelphia?” asks my friend Maggie, scowling. “It’s dirty. And there’s nothing there.”
I roll my eyes, used to hearing these kind of comments. “I’m visiting my friend Joe. I’m sure it’s not that bad. Have you ever even been there?”
“We’ll, no,” she admits. “But my boyfriend has and he hated it.”
For a moment I almost regret planning a trip to Philadelphia. Is it really that bad? I don’t know much about it, but I’d heard from other friends they hadn’t loved the destination, either. In the end, I figure even if the city doesn’t have much to offer I’d still get to see Joe, and if it was really that dangerous we could hangout watching movies and eating popcorn all weekend. Either way, it would be fine.
I arrive in Philadelphia late Friday night. As we drive, skyscrapers light up in purples and pinks, highlighting the sky. We past colonial architecture, al fresco mosaics and landmarks bursting with history. On the ground, Joe and I head to South Street, a hot spot for young party-goers. The city seems so alive and energetic, which isn’t what I was expecting after hearing negative reviews from friends.
Over the course of the weekend, I have myriad worthwhile experiences unique only to Philadelphia. Along with enjoying the nightlife, I explore the city’s rich mural culture; walk down the oldest road in America still in use; visit the house where Betsy Ross lived when she created the first American flag; run up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in true Rocky fashion; visit Independence Hall where the U.S. Constitution was adopted; and, of course, eat an authentic (Philly) cheesesteak. Additionally, I meet friendly locals who help me understand what makes Philadelphia such a great city to live in. I enjoy my trip so much I end up making plans to return before I even leave.
Don’t Miss Out
My point isn’t to tell you how great Philadelphia is, but more to show how if I had listened to what everyone said I would have missed out on experiencing a new city that is now one of my favorites. This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this issue, either. In fact, if I listened to what everyone said about what places were boring, dangerous, dirty, uneventful or unfit for tourism – usually by people who havn’t even been to the place in question – I would still be planning my first trip.
Form Your Own Opinion
There have been times I’ve been given advice by a person who has been to a place I was thinking of going and gotten negative advice. For example, before heading to Vilcabamba in Ecuador, I was told by numerous backpackers that it was boring and over-run with “gringos.” I knew it had great hiking trails and featured a plethora of spas, yoga studios and holistic opportunities, so I decided to check it out anyway. While there are many westerners relocating to this picturesque spot, it didn’t take away from my experience. I spent time with locals getting to know the culture, enjoyed budget-friendly massages and facials, and did a memorable five-waterfall hike. It was one of my favorite cities on the three-month backpacking trip through South America.
On the other hand, there have been times I’ve gotten 5-star reviews about a city from someone, gone and ended up hating it. In both instances, I’m glad I ended up sticking to my plans, because I got to experience a new place and form an opinion of my own.
You Have Nothing To Lose
Remember, you’re not married to the city you choose to travel to. If someone says a destination you’re looking to visit isn’t worthwhile, don’t let it change your mind. Go to the city and experience it yourself. If you’re not feeling it, you can always hop on a train and home-base somewhere else. If someone is telling you a place is unsafe, this is the only time I would do a bit more digging. This doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t go. I was told numerous times cities like Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, La Paz, Naples and Quito were extremely dangerous, and I traveled to each one as a solo female; however, in each instance I did more research, read forums and took extra precautions to ensure my safety. For more on this, check out 17 Safety Tips for Solo Travelers.
Only You Know What You Want
Another reason it’s not always wise to listen to others when it comes to trip planning is you’re the only one who really knows what you want to get out of the experience. Maybe the person who’s giving you advice values world-class restaurants and a trendy nightlife scene, while you’re looking to unwind and experience the outdoors. Or maybe someone else tends to favor historical cities or destinations that are aesthetically pleasing, while your goal is to experience some culture shock in a rural atmosphere. Remember, words like “fun,” “worthwhile” and “boring” are all subjective.
You Don’t Want Regrets Later
If there’s a place you’ve been interested in visiting and someone convinces you to change your plans, you may regret it later. Even if the destination in question ends up being less impressive than you expected, you’ll at least be able to cross it off your bucket list and feel content you experienced it for yourself.
Traveling, in many ways, is selfish. You can go wherever you please, learn about topics that interest you and have a journey that’s unique to your interests. Make your plans and only change them if something comes along that’s more interesting to you, not someone else. Remember, this is your trip, not theirs.