Why You Shouldn’t Let Others Influence Your Travel Plans

rocky steps

Running up the Rocky Steps in Philadelphia

“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.

mosaics

Mosaics in Philadelphia

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.

solo hiker

Solo hiker. Photo courtesy of Trekking Rinjani.

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.

notebooks

Notebooks. Photo courtesy of Dvortygirl.

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.

jumping

Travel satisfaction. Photo courtesy of Lara Cores.

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.

Be Selfish

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.

8 Comments

  1. I completely agree. When I am traveling I will go to places that I hadn’t planned on because people tell me they are amazing or interesting. I will never, however, skip a destination that I wanted to see because someone tells me they didn’t like it or it was awful. You need to make that decision for yourself and everyone has different tastes and different comfort levels.

    1. @Tana B: Exactly. There have been too many times where I was told a place wasn’t worth visiting that I myself absolutely loved. Everyone has different interests, not to mention there are so many factors that influence your individual experiences (who you meet, your accommodation, how you were feeling, etc). Decide for yourself! 🙂

  2. I’m originally from Philly, so naturally I’m delighted you chose to go and discover its charms.

    But you do bring up a good point about advice from others. Their opinions should become PART of your research, but not ALL of it. (Unless they’ve never been there a all-then disregard totally 😉 )

    We’ve had great experiences in places others have decried (such as Buffalo, NY!) and horrible experiences at destinations others have lauded (Bali & Chiang Mai). In the end you have to please yourself.

    1. @Larissa: It’s so true. I truly despise when I tell people I’m going somewhere “unpopular” and people roll their eyes and question my sanity. Let me decide what I like, especially if you’ve never even been to the place you’re putting down.

  3. I love Philly, although I haven’t been there in 10 or 11 years. It’s a really cool city. And that whole “X city is dirty” argument is insane. I attended a restaurant opening last night with other media reps and I had that discussion with a TV reporter. She loves the glitz of Dallas and thinks New York is dirty. I simply said I prefer the dirty city if that means it has more culture. I have lived in Dallas and like it just fine. But it drives me crazy the way people are so quick to dismiss fabulous cities for reasons such as dirty, too crowded, “I hear it’s not fun,” etc.

    1. @Lance: Agreed! I live in Bushwick, which many say is ghetto, dirty, etc. It only makes me love it more because I feel like I’m REALLY in an authentic Brooklyn neighborhood. I always tell travelers to come check it out, too, as there’s a lot of great arts spaces and cafes if you know where to look!

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