The Perfect Destination Doesn't Exist - And That's Not A Bad Thing

So you want to see the world. To finally step off a plane in that place that fills both your dreams, or at the very least, your spinning social media feeds. And like any good soon-to-be voyager would, you research and dig for all the information you can stuff into your brain about that soon-to-be place of wonders. But for every glossy travel publication that’s laced with ideally edited vistas, drool worthy descriptions about local food scenes, and raving articles of how amazing this place is, there are almost as many travel forums, fuming comments, and ranting blog posts on how that same place is awful.

Paris has a ton of dog sh!t, and sometimes smells like pee.

Athens is dripping in graffiti.

Some say Amsterdam seems to be covered in an inescapable grit.

There are Italian cities with a trash problem rivaling New York City itself.

Thailand has endless mosquitos.

Let me tell you a secret. This is pretty big, so lean in close, and keep this between you and me: the perfect destination doesn’t exist. The perfect place will never exist. And while that may seem like a cynical statement, hear me out- that’s inevitable, and it’s not a bad thing.

Now why an ideal place can never exist can be broken down into two primary reasons.

First, is that “perfect” is subjective. What may be a problem for one person may be a perk for another, and vice versa. Some people love big cities, with the crowds, incessant stimulation, and round the clock options. Others are drained by all that, and prefer smaller towns or the countryside for the very opposite reasons. Some people don’t mind graffiti, and may even like it. Others like to be near the ocean, others still would rather be in a historic gem than a modern metropolis. These preferences are endless, and none of them are “right” or “wrong” because people have and need different things to be happy in the place they’re living or traveling in.

We’re just different, kids.

The second reason is that, in many or most places you will probably travel to, humans live there. And humans are…human. Sometimes we’re dirty. Sometimes we erect ugly buildings. Sometimes governments become corrupt. Sometimes we don’t take as good care of things as we should. And that’s just how the world is; cities and countries don’t exist in a vacuum where they’re sheltered from weathering or time or political turmoil. Places exist in history, and will always be affected by that history. Some places have been able to right the wrongs of their history and are now thriving, clean, beautiful locales.

But the truth is that not everywhere is able to do that, or at least not yet. Every place has a set of issues specific to that place.

And in case it needs to be iterated, this isn’t to scare anyone from traveling. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t have any expectations or wish that a place is maybe how you always dreamed it to be. Because sometimes, many times, traveling is everything you dreamed of. But something that I think every traveler is guilty of at least once in their life is setting too high of expectations. You’ve seen one too many immaculately framed photos on Instagram, lively Youtube videos filled with smiling people and slapping music, and you just fell for it. You expected that little slice of the world to be so flawless that by the time you were there and living in it, you couldn’t help but feel that something was missing or something was wrong. And this is a problem that’s only on the rise in the world of social networking, where it’s the expected norm to share the best of the best, every feed being a highlight reel. All the world becomes a stage to show the most manicured versions of both ourselves and the places we go.

The perfect place will never exist.

So with all that said…why is this a good thing? What is the benefit of realizing somewhere you’ve always wanted to go is in fact not some living, flawless artwork? Because places without anything below the surface are just that…surface level. Flat. Boring. When a place doesn’t have any qualities that add texture or flavor to the experience, it’s just vanilla.

Imagine you’re going on a date with someone. You swiped right so fast because good gods they look gorgeous, how could you pass that up? And you go out, you get excited, only to meet them and see that they’re bland, grew up in the United States, with married parents, in an upper middle class neighborhood, got straight A’s, got a college degree…have I lost you yet? Sure, they’re pretty. But there’s no depth… or at least there doesn’t seem to be.

There’s nothing that will make you give them a second thought after that one time affair. In people and in places, we often assume it’s the good qualities that keep our interest when in reality it’s often the imperfections, because they are what produces the intrigue in the first place.

If I’m going to Shut Up and Go, I’m going to go to a place that makes me feel the truth of living in another corner of this little world.

And it’s in those kinds of places, those situations where we most often learn something. When you take in those surroundings, the crumbling buildings, the crowded side streets, and at the end of the day you’re in a bar and you ask a cute local hey, how did this place become like it is? Those kinds of places often make you push yourself, get out of your comfort zone, and give you the true travel experiences you’ve always wanted. But of course, if that doesn’t excite you, that’s just fine. You can certainly cherry pick your travels to go to the “best” destinations, where everything is clean and manicured, and nothing is unsightly or off-putting. And you’ll probably get some very nice photos, everything will be safe, and everything will go along with the plan of your handy local itinerary. But that’s not for me. Take me to the cities with some grit. Take me to the countries lined with markets of locals screaming in their dialects, where the streets are a charybdis of cars and horns and people braving their life to go to their bakery. Because honestly, if I wanted a cross cultural experience that’s approachable, with no garbage, locals speaking foreign languages, pickpockets, graffiti, homelessness, or an impending feeling of getting lost, then I could always book a ticket to the world pavilions at Disney Epcot.

If I’m going to Shut Up and Go, I’m going to go to a place that makes me feel the truth of living in another corner of this little world.


Meet Austin: a 25 year old from California chasing the dream of living in Europe. Keep up with his writing and adventures on IG. 

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