we've learned

What We’ve Learned From Living Where Everyone Else Is On Vacation

Almost exactly six years ago, we went under contract on the house we now call home, which we’ve since paid off, the home we originally (and jokingly) called our “retirement home.” Though we already had our eyes on early retirement at that point, we really thought we were 10 years out at a minimum, putting us at a quit date sometime mid-2021 or later, and what we called our “10 year plan” was still really a plan to make a plan. We wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told us then that, only six years after moving in full time, we’d be pulling the plug for good. (We would have believed you that the house was paid off at this point, though. That was the whole idea with buying far less than the banks would have liked us to.)

Being able to get a house at all was one of our motivators of leaving the city and moving to the mountains. The city we moved from had single family home prices even then which would make us laugh or cry but never seriously consider paying them, and it’s much worse there now. But we lucked out in being able to buy here in 2011, near the bottom of the market, which let us escape the shared walls and nosy neighbors that come with condo life without slowing down our forward financial progress.

That alone makes the move seem worth it, and that’s not even counting all the huge quality of life upgrades that came with uprooting our city life in favor of small mountain town living. The cleaner air, the trail access, the mellower people. Plus all the money we save no longer traveling to ski, practically enough to roll around in.

But there’s a whole set of stuff we didn’t think about when we moved here, which is what we’re talking about today: What it’s like to make our home in a place that others call vacation, and the unexpected lessons we’ve learned.

vacation-destination

Living In a Vacation Destination

When we used to travel to ski or to backpack in the summer, we were always instantly picked out wherever we’d go as being not local. And we were confused by that. We weren’t rolling up in a Range Rover and kitted out in the latest, most expensive gear (because you don’t need that stuff). We weren’t loud and intrusive. And we really don’t look like “city people.” (Take my word for it for now. We’ll prove it when we unmask in a few months.) We never got a satisfying answer for why we stood out.

But now, having lived in a place for a handful of years where plenty of people come on vacation, I understand. It is totally obvious when people are not from here, in ways I often can’t articulate. I just know. And I don’t say any of that to judge anyone or to lament that they come here. Quite the opposite — we feel lucky to have more services nearby than a town of our permanent population size warrants, and that’s entirely due to the volume of visitors. For that, we’re stoked and thankful.

Realizing that I could pretty instantly tell when people aren’t from here, though, made me wonder what it is about them that gives it away. It’s not how they dress, which varies a ton, what they drive, how they talk or any of the obvious signifiers. Instead, it’s in their actions, which offer a lot of unexpected lessons for our own early retirement.

1. Even people on vacation are in a hurry

If you drive around our area, or go to the grocery store, it’s obvious right away who is just visiting, because those people are in a great big hurry. Even when it’s dumping snow and the roads are all kinds of slippery, they’re the ones going too fast (and often ending up in the ditch), acting like they’ve got somewhere to be. (*Not all visitors display this bad driving behavior in the snow.) They’re the ones looking impatient that they have to wait in the long lines at the grocery store, and getting snippy with other customers, rather than just rolling with it. And they’re the ones getting agitated at the popular spots when parking is in short supply.

And that’s super weird, because it’s vacation. Isn’t this the one chance most people get to slow down? To move at a different pace, to breathe a little deeper than in the rest of life? And also, because there is literally nowhere up here anyone has to be, unless you’re in labor and need to get to the hospital. Sure, you might want to have a little more time at Pretty Spot X, and your time off is in short supply, so every minute spent standing in line at the store is a minute you’re not hiking that trail or sipping a beer next to some water.

But seeing that constant and nearly universal hurry, it makes me sad for all of us. That we don’t know how to slow down and truly relax anymore. That, even on vacation, all we’re thinking about is sticking to the schedule and packing in as much as possible. Seeing this play out day after day has made me resolve to move more slowly whenever possible. To remind myself not to act like I’m in a hurry when I don’t need to be. And it has definitely made us question how we behave when we travel away from home, whether we move faster or more urgently than necessary, and whether knocking that off would be good for us. (Answer: yes.)

2. Visitors don’t see a place the same way the people who live there do

Alpine ecosystems are fragile things. Just one step on high altitude soil can render it lifeless for many years. That’s why so many recreation areas in mountainous regions beat you over the head with all the Leave No Trace guidelines, reminding you to stick to trails or durable surfaces like rock and snow, rather than wandering off trail. And locals tend to be decently good about following those guidelines, because we are the ones who see the ramifications of human carelessness. But a lot of visitors disregard those guidelines, and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they don’t know them. Too many times, though, I’ve seen someone ask others to stick to the trail, and the response back has been “So what?” or “What I do doesn’t matter.” Which is an easy mindset to have if you won’t be sticking around to see what happens later. That’s just one example, but there are others — littering, pocketing rocks at landmark sites, generally leaving things messy. I’m sure locals are guilty of that stuff too, but on a different scale.

There’s the flipside of all of this, too, though, which is that most people passing through don’t give themselves enough time to appreciate the best stuff in depth, and they miss out on a ton of the beauty. Even in a busy tourist destination, there are plenty of places where very few visitors venture, most of which aren’t all that far off the beaten path.

Witnessing all of this has made us more intentional when we visit other places, careful not to come across as reckless or disrespectful to their local ecosystems or culture. If we all treated the places we visit as though we lived there, the world would be better for it. And if we all slowed down when we travel (notice a theme?), we might realize how much of the most interesting stuff we’ve been missing.

3. Visitors rarely engage with locals

So all those places that are the best spots? They aren’t secrets. I’d tell anyone who asked me how to get there. But no one asks us, or any other locals. It’s amazing how we can go to place and consult a guidebook or Google rather than the human being right in front of us, and more technology is only intensifying that effect. It’s not like when we traveled to Japan and had a significant language barrier. We’re talking about English speaking visitors who could easily ask a server at breakfast what their favorite local spot is, but we so rarely see that happen. We’ve always loved engaging with locals when we travel, and it’s how we picked our mountain town in the first place, based on the conversations we had with friendly residents when we first visited. Not all locals everywhere are down to chat, but when they are, we love getting to know them and what they think is most special about their area. It’s never what’s in the guidebooks.

4. We all need to put down the screens

Here’s a scene I have seen play out dozens of times: Car pulls up at premier tourist attraction X. People get out of car, phones in hand. Without looking up, people aim phones at attraction, snap pictures and then, all the while still looking at the phone, get back in the car and drive away.

I am as guilty as anyone of being attached to my phone. But so many people aren’t actually even seeing the thing they came to see with their actual eyes. They’re only seeing it through a camera and a screen. And that’s not the same. We all need to be more intentional about being present for those experiences in life that are special or beautiful in some way. It’s fine to commemorate the moment with a photo, but living entirely through the photo is doing it wrong.

5. Stress is a choice

Soon enough we’ll be able to share with you guys where we live and why we love it so much, but for now it’s enough to say that it’s stupidly beautiful, and the beauty should be enough to make anyone take a big breath, exhale deeply and smile like the Buddha. This is the epitome of why so many of us love the outdoors, because it’s inspiring, calming, grounding, and a whole bunch of other positive adjectives that have nothing to do with feeling more stressed out. And yet, I’ve seen some things. Not universally (#notallvisitors) by any means, but not the tiny exception either. People out on a trail that leaves most hikers in awe, fighting about something petty. A grown-ass person having a meltdown at a bar server on the mountain at the end of a perfect bluebird powder day. Aggressive driving in the middle of a Tuesday.

I know everyone’s got unknowable life circumstances, and I’d like to believe that all that stressed out behavior I’ve witnessed was because those folks had other hugely overwhelming things going on in their lives, and that just happened to be the outlet. Maybe that’s true. Or maybe a ton of the stress in our lives is actually stress we create, and stress that we can even bring with us on vacation to beautiful places if we don’t intentionally choose to set it aside. It’s a good reminder to all of us to look at that stress we feel, and see if any of it is of our own creation. And then let that stuff go, look up and enjoy the scenery.

6. Money doesn’t buy happiness

Perhaps the biggest lesson of all. We have seen some serious wealth living here, and we have met some seriously happy people. But there is no overlap between those groups. We know there are happy wealthy people out there, but it’s clearly not automatic. The research tell us that after we hit about $75,000 in income, additional income doesn’t bring much more happiness, and our experience living around wealthy tourists definitely bears that out. A good reminder for anyone who still had any doubts.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear from lots of you guys — are there any special lessons to be learned where you live, either by observing the locals or by watching those who come to visit? Or anything you’ve learned in your travels, other than that Americans are pretty easy to pick out abroad? ;-)

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102 replies »

  1. Great observation about always being rushed! A local 65 yo couple told my wife and I this in Venice to slow down and smell the roses, and we did πŸ™‚

    Thanks for reminding me to actually spend more time in the mountains! We have a place there but seldom go now due to having a little one. But our goal is to live there for 2-3 months a year when he’s older.

    Sam

  2. It’s easy to pick many of the tourists out at our beach community. They are the ones who are sun burned and drag more toys, boogie boards, tents and chairs than to the beach than they could ever use. And then they pack up a few hours later and head off to do something “fun”. They also have their heads in their electronics a lot of the time, rather than talking with one another, walking or playing in the sand (it’s not just for kids!) Of course we are just transitioning from being vacation folks to locals – so we were guilty of a lot of that ourselves too. Interesting topic!

    • I didn’t address the flip side of this here, which is that plenty of tourist destinations can be anti-tourist, which I don’t like at all. But I have come to understand it, at least. And yeah, look around and enjoy where you are! ;-)

  3. As usual an insightful post. There is a lot to be said just about the slowing down de-stressing part of this post that is a great point for those entering early retirement. That sudden STOP that occurs on your last day has to be a defining and moment of relief. If you are afraid then the stress of NOT maintaining your previous pace will likely cause problems in your life.

    I think this is why people vacation the way they do – the FOMO and the fact the office intrudes on vacation for most add up to a lot of stress and time conflict – very few people actually know how to unplug or fear being unplugged and unneeded while gone to the point they choose to work to not miss anything or feel irrelevant upon their return

    Because of this I think if you are planning to FIRE yourself you have to have a plan that starts years before that date and it should be a continuum – to the point that the resignation date is just one step / milestone on a multi year plan with hundreds of milestones. I think that is the #1 lesson of this entire blog and the thing that has helped me the most in terms of looking at early retirement. My retirement plan does not START on my last day of work, it started a decade earlier (if not earlier than that)

    Thanks again for a wonderful post

    • Thanks, Phil! :-) And wow, I LOVE how you’ve condensed the whole blog into a single thesis statement. I totally agree. I think that’s the thread running through all of this, that ER isn’t the end of the journey, nor should it be the beginning of thinking about what your future life will look like. :-)

  4. We’re in a similar situation, with a huge influx of weekenders, fishermen & fisherwomen, and golfers all summer long. It can be tough to distinguish them though, especially since so many own their own cabins that they are part-time locals.

    My brother tells me it’s easier to tell in the winter. Apparently everyone from the big city wears a North Face jacket.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    • Fisherwomen! Funny that that word has to be gendered, but “fishers” sounds wrong, and like a cute woodland creature. And that’s funny about the North Face jackets, because there are plenty of those on the locals here, but just usually not the very newest models. ;-)

  5. Same here! We live in a vacation area in northern Michigan, surrounded by an incredible outdoor area with quaint small towns and an exciting vibe! I have found that living here has made me feel like I should take advantage of the area around me because it is so easily accessible (I don’t have to take vacation time to go run next to the bay or hike to Lake Michigan!). It has motivated Mr. AR and I to get out and enjoy the area on week nights and make sure we appreciate the area we live in (get out from behind the screens ;) )

    A side benefit of living in this area is that I don’t really want to vacation. I just want to take time off of work to explore our area and maybe do a few road trips to neighboring areas (2-3 hours away). Definitely helps the budget when our vacation is right at home!

    ~Mrs. Adventure Rich

    • I LOVE that you are making time to enjoy the place where live. That’s a fairly rare luxury for me these days, and many weeks, I feel like I don’t even live here (or, often, “there”). ;-) And you’re so right that it helps the budget when you don’t need to go far to flex your wanderlust!

  6. I also live in a popular tourist destination. I so, so feel you on the phones. I recently visited a popular Texas attraction and couldn’t believe the amount of selfie sticks I saw. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many damn selfie sticks before! I think this phenomenon is why so many people need a vacation from their vacation. They feel pressured to pack X amount of fun into the trip that they emerge exhausted.

    • Yeah, or maybe they think of a vacation as more of a “performance of a vacation” that they’ll do for their friends on social media? I obviously have no issue with phones, pictures or social media, but in moderation!

  7. We hope to see you on a ski hill one day and slice some turns into deep mountain snow. And yes, by the way, I am the fast paced vacationer. That rushing feeling, I believe, stems from the entrepreneur in me. I am fully aware that the mountains aren’t going to last forever when I am visiting, so I am on a mission to take advantage of them when I am there. I know I can rest when I get down to Denver, or when I get on my couch back home. When I am on vacation, or when I am building businesses, I am on a mission to load up my memory bank with experiences when I have the chance, and then I can relax once I’ve had my fill. Peace, friends.

    • And do you think, with that approach, that you are actually filling up your memory bank with *quality* memories, not just quantity? If so, then right on. But if it’s more about the quantity, then maybe a shift to quality would do you good. :-)

      • I think for this type of “action vacation” I need enough “quantity” to make me feel saturated and fulfilled with the sensations of adventure. When I am out skiing, it’s usually only for like 3 days, so I know I have to maximize each of those runs as they are a finite resource, and once I leave, I won’t be back there again until the next year. I’d hate to have paid money to get out there, and then feel unfulfilled when I left. I ski hard, until I reach the moment of “saturation”, until I feel “fulfilled” with my experience, and then once I feel like I have pushed enough, and enjoyed enough of the unique landscape to last me the full year, then I can relax and just enjoy the rest of the trip. If I lived there, I’d probably feel differently. But since I am just a visitor from the midwest foothills, enjoying a finite amount of time in a unique landscape with thousands of feet of vertical drops, I feel the urge to maximize that finite amount of time and resources there. Once I feel fulfilled that I accomplished the experience I set out to experience, then I relax a little and just enjoy the rest of the ride and journey home. I should also note, I don’t have kids. My approach may change once I have kids, and I have to be aware of other people’s feelings, and definition of fun, and not just my own. But for now, after 2 days of deep snow and steeps that I can’t get at home, I’m usually fulfilled with my experience and ready to look forward to next year. It works for me at least.

        • Okay, yeah, I totally get that with regard to ski trips. Before we lived in a ski place, we definitely skied bell to bell, too, and would exhaust ourselves to the point that we’d be fast asleep by 8 pm or some such pathetic hour. ;-) Definitely different, though, now that skiing isn’t in such short supply!

  8. I used to live in two different resort destinations – Santa Barbara and Boulder – before they became overpopulated and overpriced. Now, it’s hard to recognize what used to be, and the flavor has gone in many instances. As both are college towns, there is always an influx of younger people, which is energizing, but as I age, I also find tiring. Now, in an urban suburb, I find the small town quality that has left these two areas where I now live. People talk to each other, take time to talk, and there is interaction. The outdoor areas are getting too well known in the digital age – do I really need to listen to NPR at full volume on a morning’s hike??? – but that is the price we sometimes have to pay. However, friendliness, silence, bird calls, and chit chat make for a good place to live. Living in a resort area has its benefits and its curses, but off-season, they are great!

    • Oh my goodness, don’t even get me started on those bluetooth speakers! I have said some strong words to more than one hiker who decided that everyone on the trail needed to listen to whatever loud music they found so inspiring. (Um, headphones?) That is definitely NOT a welcome addition to the outdoors, even if it’s NPR and not death metal. ;-) And yeah, we’ll see if our town gets too overgrown at some point and loses the charm we love… then we’ll figure out the next stop, like you did.

  9. I have a lot of feelings regarding standing out as a non-local, having lived away from home for most of my adult life, and I’ll admit it’s definitely something I seek to avoid where possible. In cities it tends to come down to speed of walking, and style of dress. But sometimes in cities, it also manifests as a perma-scowl, which I try not to emulate!

    One of the things I’m looking forward to is being able to avoid the crush of cranky commuters here in Dublin, because I’ll know exactly when they descend on the streets! Sometimes they (ahem, we) are cranky for a reason, though, and that reason is slow-walking tourists… ;)

    • I do the same thing when I go to cities — walk fast, don’t look around too much, scowl a bit. ;-) (And my wardrobe is 95% black, so I don’t usually have to change much.) And definitely true that some tourists are in a rush, but others have no concept that others might have someplace to be. We see that less in terms of walking, and more in terms of driving slowly on the highways. Also not my favorite. :-)

  10. Whenever I feel urges to pack my vacation calendar, I remind myself to travel like I am coming back. I think there is a class of “angry vacationers” who bring their work baggage with them and never relax. But there is another group who are nice people, and could relax, but given available vacation time and the number of things to see and do, they then bring some kind of achievement curse, trying to check as many boxes as they can. This often seems to be driven by an unspoken fear that they won’t ever be back. I also think a driver is the cost of vacations: when people add up air travel, lodging, and admission, the idea of stopping in a place to read a book, wander around for a day, etc. is seen as a waste of money. (perhaps, with some guilt or thought that they should take times to do those things near their own home, on any given day)

    I take a lot of my travel philosophy from Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door. Rick focuses on Europe on TV and in his books, but on his radio show he talks about traveling elsewhere. And you know what? It’s really all the same. You are traveling to someone’s home, and they have rolled out the welcome mat. Given how many other travelers react (see above) people react with delight and warmth if you take even small steps to understand them and act as a guest, rather than a customer. Rick also advocates “a vacation from your vacation” when you are hopping multiple places–take time for an unscheduled day, to use however you want.

    I like to find the tourist main street, and walk 2 blocks away. Even that close to “the stage,” you can find quiet spots, pubs filled with locals, and people who only speak the local language. This has been true in Paris, Munich, Budapest, Amsterdam, Cozumel, Ketchikan, Alaska, Suzhou China–basically anywhere. The “real” experiences start quite close to the ones put on just for visitors.

    • So many good points! And angry vacationers — LOL. So true. I think you’re right about people feeling like they need to pack stuff in because of that scarcity mindset — the monetary cost of the trip, the time cost, the fact that they may never return. It totally makes sense, and I get why people operate that way. We just don’t want to keep perpetuating that behavior, at least in our own travels. And while we’ve been guilty of packing things in on trips, too, we try hard to do much of what you’re describing — learn some of the language in recognition that we’re going to someone else’s home, and leave the main drags to figure out where the locals hang out.

  11. When we were on vacation the last couple of weeks, we definitely didn’t ahve the hurried feel. It was nice actually, just relaxing and being where we were. When I got the car and started driving from Spokane to MT I caught myself thinking, WTF, why is everyone driving below the speed limit, in ALL 3 lanes?! Then I was like, Um, what do I care, I only have a 4 hr drive and 9 hrs to kill. Such a game changer for that whole vacation. I stuck with that attitude the rest of the trip and it was great. Although, after getting back to Houston, my first morning commute back I got within 2 miles of my office before I uttered, “Come on, find the damn gas pedal already” lol.

    One morning we’d made plans to go do some local hikes around Whitefish, and saw a sign for the city beach and went there instead. It wasn’t planned at all but was a blast just watching the kids play and relaxing and talking on the beach. When I was driving in Glacier on the Going to the Sun road, I was solo and it was early so I was able to stop at the overlooks (still empty then) and actually spend some time just looking, not grabbing a shot or two and hopping back in the car. It was nice getting to “be” and not feeling hurried.

    The same with the beaches in ID and MT. It was nice showing up with towels, snacks and sunscreen. Since we were flying back, we packed minimally so no toys or anything like the usual. The kids loved finding rocks and sticks and just playing in the water. We could just take it in or go swimming too. I swam, and the water was cold, but refreshingly cold, not painful. It was only painful in one lake…

    And with us NOT living in a vacation area, I can’t say too much about spotting locals or out of towners. Our next house will be in that setup, but not this one. The biggest difference I noticed from our last trip was gas prices. $2.36-$2.43 in MT and ID and we landed and gas is at $1.86…

    • So funny — even if I am not in a hurry, people driving under the speed limit makes me C-R-A-Z-Y. Which is not good, because that’s shockingly common west of the Mississippi. And gas prices. Yeah. Totally the vacation destination tax that we pay full time.

      But I’m glad you guys had such a relaxing, beautiful vacation that allowed so much time for spontaneity! It sounds wonderful.

  12. I love your neck of the woods, guys. It really is full of beauty and we’re always anxious to get back out there. For us, we travel all the time and try to connect with locals as much as we can…especially those who have camped in the area before and have already done some exploring. We’ve done more socializing, in fact, since quitting our jobs than we ever did working full-time. Weird, I know.

    Now, I guess we too can say that we “live” in vacation spots…just not the same spot. :)

  13. Tourists here are the ones going 55 on the freeway instead of 80, so it’s the locals who should slow down. However, we also realize that the freeways aren’t the best part of the day so we’re eager to get where we’re going and enjoy our friends, family, and activities. Unless you’re on the Scottsdale 101, that is, which has awesome gecko sculptures.

    • Ha. We’ve visited places like that, too. South Florida comes to mind. Like, whoa folks! Speed limit 70, I’m going 75, and getting passed like I’m going 35. ;-)

  14. Really interesting and timely post! I just moved to the LA area (Hermosa Beach, a surf town so it definitely has handfuls of tourists). As a newbie, I still feel like a tourist even if I’m not one. It’s usually because I’m consulting my phone instead of the people in front of me or I’m purchasing something unnecessary to fit a lifestyle I’m adjusting to. Really telling!

    • Thanks! And yeah, I think what you’re experiencing being new there is totally normal. And it’s good you’re noticing your tendencies so you can decide if you want to keep consulting the phone and accessorizing for the lifestyle. ;-)

  15. Oh, so many good points in this post! In particular I’m with you on the screens and photos. Even in the most mundane of activities (parents with kids at the playground, for example), it is all too common to see people snapping pics constantly. I find I need to be mindful and purposeful in enjoying the moment, whether on vacation or in the everyday, and sometimes just leaving the phone off my person aids in that pursuit. I think social media increases the problem; too many of us are focused on getting more pics on Facebook as evidence of all the fun we have had, rather than appreciating the actual experience.

    • Thanks, Mrs. COD! “Leaving the phone off my person”… what does that even mean??? Hahaha. (But seriously, how do you not die not having it on you?!) ;-)

  16. Last year we moved to the popular vacation destination of south Florida from the Midwest for work. We both work out of Miami and were quickly identified as not being from the area. My husband and I both have blonde hair and come from life in the country, so we don’t look like your typical Miamians, and we are the only ones who are overly polite and not in a hurry. Of course, there are many wonderful people living in our area, but they seem to be the exception, not the rule. Many times, I will help someone with directions or strike up a conversation on the elevator and I immediately get the question, “Where are you from?”

    While we miss our old life in the country, we are enjoying everything south Florida has to offer and that is the key to our happiness. There’s so much to explore and do in this area and we feel very fortunate to have the chance to take advantage of it. We have to remember to not get caught up in how much we make, the horrible traffic, the more than occassional rude person and the waves of tourists. We do have our favorite “local” spots that we have found by trying a new section of beach or city or park every weekend. We swim, kayak, bike ride, snorkel, take airboat rides, etc. We are newer to this area, but know it better than many who were born here because we have taken the time to explore! Slowing down and enjoying where you are without getting caught up in the hustle works wherever you live, whether it’s the Midwest or Miami! Get out and explore!

    • I LOVE that you actually get out and explore. As you rightly noted, that’s so rare! In several places we’ve lived, we’ve been surprised how few people had actually seen the sights. And having moved to So. Fla., are you shocked at how fast everyone drives? I think I was expecting all slow-poke retirees, and the interstates are NOT that!

      • I’m usually stuck in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic on 95 or paying attention to all the crazy drivers without turn signals cutting me off, so I may be guilty of not watching my speedometer at times, either… :) LOL!

  17. Totally agree with you, that’s why one of our goals is to live in different places for an extended period of time so we can connect with the locals and immersed in the culture. How cool would be to live in Italy for a year and learn how to cook proper Italian food and talk using your hands?

    • Or so you can be tourists everywhere?? Haha. And yeah, I totally see the appeal in your plan, though I think I use my hands enough when I talk as it is. Dumped over a glass of water yesterday mid-sentence! ;-)

  18. We also live in a vacation destination….San Diego, CA. And this week we’re being invaded to Comic-Con attendees! Who are a blast to watch strut around the downtown area. We are a convention town all year round and it’s a pleasure to share our beautiful city with others. Our only complaint is too much traffic…all of it in a hurry. I agree with you…life is one big hurry. So much to see and do and we’re afraid of missing anything. When we go elsewhere for vacations, I always chat up the locals. For me, it’s the best thing about traveling. And I hardly ever take a picture. I don’t want to see life through a tiny lens. We are retired and debt free. This is the best time of life.

    • Invasion of the Nerds!! ;-) I think it’s amazing that you have such a grounded view on travel, and I’m especially amazed that you take so few pictures. I can’t imagine not taking some (perhaps obviously, given the photos here on the blog), but I try not to let that be my whole experience.

  19. Fair points… We decided to travel slow after a rush honeymoon on the west coast. Croatia will be slow: the Touraine guide recommends 4 to 5 days we take 14.

    We used to go to the same spot on holiday in Belgium and had all the time to ask neighbors where to go. As a family, we have build up a lot of knowledge as well that we shared with other family members.

  20. I am so looking forward to being a “local” like yourselves next year… While I’m sure what you describe above is certainly true the majority of the time, I have observed the opposite on enough occasions for it to stick out in my mind. There have been many times where I am visiting some spectacular place and asked a local for some 411 on things to do and have been told “I hear xxx is great but I’ve never actually done it”. I suppose even in a vacation destination it’s easy to get caught up in work/life and not get out and experience it.

    • Oh, you’re totally right that locals in plenty of places haven’t seen all there is to see (or even much of it). That tends not to be true here, so I think it’s place-specific, but yeah, that’s a common phenomenon that makes me sad in a totally different way! (Though, I don’t blame people for skipping the obvious and shameless tourist traps. That’s completely acceptable.)

  21. I don’t live in a vacation destination, but so many of my friends from college who moved here had an exit plan when they moved here and I didn’t. It made dating a bit difficult because most people outside of that circle similarly assumed I had an exit plan. That was one of the items that attracted me to my husband – our similar levels of no exit plan from this city/state. So many of my friends have left now and it’s only going to get worse now that we are mostly all in our early thirties.

    Similarly, I remember when we were in Wellington, NZ going to a bar and seeing one of the baristas from a coffee shop we had been to that day and then feeling like we had hit a local spot. We did so few touristy things on that trip and it was much less crowded because of that.

    • The exit plan is an interesting phenomenon I’ve noted in a few cities, including one where I used to live! And that’s awesome you guys felt like you got a good local groove going in NZ!

  22. I’m frustrated by “stress is a choice”. I am stressed right now and I know it and it’s unpleasant and bad for me but I struggle with coping. I’ve tried a lot of things but nothing has stuck. I don’t particularly disagree but it’s frustrating because I haven’t found a way to choose not to be stressed.

    • Stress may be a choice, but it isn’t necessarily an easy choice. The first step would be to correctly identify what the cause is–the root cause, not necessarily the daily / most recent battle. A vacation’s purpose is to give us time away: from routine, from worries, from unfavorable weather. But, if your stress source isn’t work but family, then that purpose is spoiled. (in the original article, maybe that bickering couple needs some vacation time from each other! Not as a prelude to permanent separation, but at least for some perspective.) On the other hand, if work is your stressor, then checking email several times a day or taking “just a few” meetings by phone also won’t let you separate yourself from that.

      For myself, I take 3 days to decompress–then I begin being relaxed, and enjoying vacations. I do long weekends, for example to see family, and while I enjoy those times, they are not vacations for me. Not in the sense of de-stressing. I have found that the few times I have had 2 weeks off, I start to exhibit symptoms like many retirees report: forget the day of the week, etc. For many years, my wife would steer me to cruises because of the forced isolation. Of course, that is largely gone now–for a price.

      • Can’t wait until we can start forgetting what day it is! ;-) Kudos to you for being so intentional about taking time to decompress. I’m impressed that you can allot 3 whole days to that on your vacations while working!

    • Oh my gosh, totally. And in short-cutting that statement to great a concise headline, I didn’t get into all the ways stress is often NOT a choice, or it’s a choice but still really hard to cope with. I hope you can be gentle with yourself and focus on the stressor itself and not beat yourself up for experiencing what is a totally normal human thing. Sending good vibes your way!

  23. It’s been interesting living on the periphery of some major tourist destinations for the last two years. It’s not a place I grew up in, or a place I would have chosen, so I’ve consistently felt like an outsider since we moved here. What you see is how people flow to exactly where they mean to go (the beach, the mountains etc), and then they go back to where they came from. It leaves small towns like mine economically depressed since they get bypassed (no ones fault, just the result). And don’t get me started on how tourists drive on roads with tractors and horses and carriages. Let’s just say, no vacation is that important that you need to risk your own life and other people’s lives to get there.

    • Oh my gosh, you’re making me so grateful we don’t have tractors and carriages on our roads! I can’t imagine mountain snow + tourists who feel bulletproof + agricultural slowpoke stuff. (!!) And yeah, so true about small downs being left depressed. If we lose our snow as the climate warms, we could see some of that happen here. But not so far.

  24. The FOMO crowds are why we Oahu residents hardly ever go to Waikiki. And that’s a shame.

    Are you guys considered locals after just six years, or still merely newbies? Because after 28 years on Oahu I’m no longer a malahini, but we probably need another 20 years before we’re considered locals.

    • I don’t blame you, though! I’ve lived places where I skipped the best stuff because it was just such a hassle. And yeah, I don’t think we’re considered FULL locals, but we’re getting there. The joke here is you have to have seen snow in every month of the year to be a mountain local, and we’re still missing August. (Maybe next month??) ;-)

  25. I learned a while back that vacation is not just an opportunity to visit a new city or take in new scenery, it is also a vacation from my job. My busy, and at times, stressful job. Why would I want to be busy or stressed during my vacation too? Now when I vacation, I drive in the slow lane, don’t worry if I can’t see all the sights, and don’t sweat it if somebody cuts me off. Oh, and always complement the locals on what a great city/town they live in:)

    • I love that perspective, Robin, and think that’s so important! Vacation is just as much about the work break as anything, and it’s so important to give yourself that time for decompression. Your approach to vacation sounds wonderful. :-)

  26. Love the insight…. My favorite way to travel somewhere new is to bring along a Lonely Planet or some other guide, have an idea what I want to see and do ahead of time and then kind of roll with things. One of the best trips I ever had was a trip to Costa Rica where I took a bus with some folks I met in San Jose who were headed in the same direction, ended up staying nearly a week in Quepos, playing pick up soccer on the beach at low tide with the locals (I had to work hard to earn some touches on the ball), tried to learn to surf, ate and drank in local spots, vastly improved my Spanish, and finally moved on to the volcano for a couple few days where I met geology PhD students who took me to the coolest lookout spots. That template of having loose structure, and an open mind for fun opportunities seems to work well for me.

    I live in a touristy city and I have to admit I nearly always giggle when I watch the non-locals run into the usually very chilly water only to be shocked by the temperature.

    Great post!

    • I have witnessed that warm-beach-cold-water phenomenon and agree it’s hilarious. ;-) Your Costa Rica trip sounds AMAZING. Our favorite trips are always those when we have a loose schedule and can follow adventure on a whim like that. But man, no one has ever taken me to cool volcano overlook spots!

  27. I was a slow traveler before slow travel was a thing so I’m already there with you 100% :)

    In my first job, I was struck by one of my senior partners’ approaches to vacation. He would work double shifts for two weeks before, take a week off, then work double shifts the twos weeks after he returned. It would almost have made sense if that week was totally relaxing but their vacation was actually even busier than the work schedule! They were up at dawn and on tour / touristing all day til dusk or even late into the night. Rinse and repeat every single day of “vacation”. Even for an energetic 17 year old, that sounded like grueling torture!

    When I traveled to Europe the following year, I made a conscious decision to do the exact opposite. We went to three cities over 10 days but we stayed in hostels sharing a room with strangers, wandered the streets, talked to the restauranteers, and generally soaked up the culture by sitting and being one with it. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better experience: it was weird, exhilarating, and exciting.

    Ever since then, I’ve refused to do the typical bus-tour style of travel and tourism. Zipping into a country just to say I’ve touched that earth and taking off again sounds like a complete waste of time and opportunity. If I haven’t learned anything about the culture, the history, or the city, it feels like it didn’t even happen.

    • I wonder if that senior partner even KNEW how to go slowly? Sounds like the go-go-go was super deeply ingrained. And three cities in 10 days sounds totally reasonable, especially since you gave yourself the opportunity to interact with locals and folks at the hostels. Totally with you on not seeing the appeal of bus tours, and as for the touch-down approach, I used to scorn that, but see it differently now with my work travel. I sometimes have just a few hours in a new place, and I set out on foot and try to just soak up the “feel” of the place instead of going to some tourist sight. Though I’ve had short times in several places, I still feel like I’ve been there because I was intentional about soaking up the vibes.

  28. I have totally seen most of the items on that list, just not in our nondescript midwestern town that doesn’t attract any tourists. We do get a lot of business travelers whose idea of hurry may put your vacationers to shame and really annoys us locals.

    I had to laugh about the idea that stress is choice. I suppose it was a choice at one time to be responsible for multiple other humans but it sure doesn’t feel like there are many options to prevent the added stress of taking them on vacation.

    • Oh, I have no doubt that your biz travelers are in more of a hurry than some of our visitors… but ours are supposed to be relaxing! ;-) And certainly all stress is not a choice, but I’ve seen enough people act in ways that convince me that some people just choose to be stressed out because they can’t live without it. (Truly I have no idea why they are choosing to operate that way — just my guess!)

  29. I don’t exactly live near a vacation destination, but I have a friend who moved here from a popular vacation area and it’s been interesting to see how she’s hiked just about every trail, found all the free children’s activities, and frequented all the playgrounds I’d been to and then some–all within her first year here. She’s an active person, but also she didn’t take for granted all the programs and resources available like us long-time residents tend to. There’s a lot to be learned from that approach.

    • Wow, your friend sounds impressive! She’s who we aspire to be after we’re not spending so much of our time working! We work hard to get out there when we can, but have such limited time right now.

  30. It sounds like I live in a similar town to you. I, also, am very grateful to have the number of services we have, as I know it is due to those tourist numbers.

    I think tourists can be picked by their clothes here. Not many locals walk around town in their ski gear. Maybe a jacket, but not full jacket, pants, beanie and ski gloves. Once I wore my ski gear to the video store after a long day on the mountain and was picked as a tourist (the store clerk approached me to say that only local residents could rent items).

    It is an interesting point you make about tourists not treating an area as well as locals. I’ve been playing Pokemon Go for a little over a year now and in recent weeks have noticed people have been dumping rubbish out of their cars onto the ground at local Pokegyms. The gyms are in strange and specific locations (the grassy field next to a country church, a particular area in one corner of the carpark at an abandoned train station). I’ve never seen rubbish like this in these spots and couldn’t figure out why it had recently started, especially as the game is less popular these days. I’m now wondering if it is because the ski season has started up here and tourist numbers have exploded.

    • So interesting how different ski areas vary! Here it would be totally normal for locals to be in ski gear after skiing, but not for an extended period, because you’d go home and change. We regularly hit the grocery store in our ski pants and jackets, for example, but we wouldn’t just hang out like that and go get coffee or a beer. ;-)

  31. We always engage with locals. Maybe we are weird. Just this past weekend we were in Portland. We found a coffee place (go figure-they are on every corner) And we were chatting up the baristas. Turns out, one was good friends with our Barista back home in Orange County Ca where we have only a handful of great coffee spots. In a city the size of Portland, how does that happen? And the locals always know the best places to eat too!

    • What a cool coincidence! And good on you guys for chatting up the folks who live where you visit! I don’t think you’re weird, but you might be rare. ;-)

  32. We live in a ski / mountain resort where we moved permanently last year. Before that we were vacationers so have now seen both sides of the coin.

    As we live in Europe (Austria in fact) so our ability to spot tourists is relatively easy i.e. they come with strange license plates and strange languages! But they also come with a lot of the characteristics that you mention – particularly the staring at screens!

    In the winter the impact this has had on us is clear (1) either we take vacation in the business periods (school holidays, Christmas); or (2) we go out early (and finish early) to avoid the crowds.

    • Those are both smart strategies! We almost never now ski on the big holiday weekends here because it’s far too crowded, and we try to get out early… but sadly, that is no guarantee!

  33. Thanks for sharing! We love walking around new cities and places early in the morning when it feels like only the locals are out and about. There is always a sense of calm as people prepare for the day that is wuickly replaced once the rest of the city wakes up.

    I still remember 15 years ago walking around Venice early one morning and watching the garbage and delivery boats navigate through the canals. Little moments like those that let you learn how a city operates really let us connect in a more intimate way with the places we visit.

    • I love that too, and Mr. ONL would probably love it if he could ever pretend to be a morning person. ;-) And wow, what a cool bit of trivia that Venice has garbage boats. I mean, of course it does… I just never thought about it before!

  34. On vacation I am more relaxed, I don’t rush, and I always seem to notice the natural beauty when going to a different area (mountains, beach, etc.). After having recent visitors, I realized that people see the same thing here, and maybe I should have a more of a relaxed, vacation mindset.

    Nice post!

    • What a profound realization! It’s so true that there’s beauty everywhere, and we shouldn’t just look for it on vacation. Thanks for sharing that!

  35. The community we chose to move to across the country is a very popular tourist town and your post today is so very similar to our experiences. Also as someone who worked hard to retire and now is self employed in the social media tourism world I too hope more people would slow down and enjoy a place they visit. Money doesn’t matter, its your attitude and willingness to allow the outdoors to connect deeply with you. As for LNT …. don’t get me started SIGH . Thanks for another terrific post

  36. Hmmm. I wonder if the reason none of these sound like us are because we have lived in a tourist area (and I worked as a naturalist on an island were the summer population was 100x the winter population), so I know how annoying tourists can be and never want to be like that :)

  37. I moved to Hawaii in 1981 and I can tell you it feels like everyone in the world has been here 3 time! I would not known where to start regarding all the points you have made!!!!!!!!
    Aloha, Paul

  38. I guess we’re so much better than visitors! Come on this is self serving baloney (not my first choice of terms!). Get over yourselves.

  39. We lived in a tourist town near a couple national parks for three years. It was a beautiful area, and a really great experience, but with so many seasonal workers and visitors passing through, I never felt a strong sense of community. We hiked in the parks a few times a year, and took all of our guests to the big sites, but most of our hiking and trail running was done outside the park boundaries on BLM land. It was just as beautiful, but with much smaller crowds. Spring break was a whole other beast, though, and we made sure to get the heck out of town. I have a couple guesses as to where you guys live, so I can’t wait for the big reveal!

    • We’ll have a contest coming up soon to guess where we live in advance of the big reveal, so make sure you enter your guesses! ;-) And it’s interesting what you noted, the lack of community. We’ve definitely observed that in other touristy towns, including some very close to us. What drew us to our particular town is the strong sense of community in spite of the volume of folks passing through. And, to be honest, the friendliness toward visitors as opposed to the “locals only” mentality we’ve observed in plenty of ski towns.

  40. Born and raised in Hawaii, spent my adult life either working/living there or as a visitor while I worked/lived across the US. Everyone thinks how wonderful it must be, but most people’s perspective of Hawaii is based off of pictures or a vacation there. Visiting is wonderful, you have time and disposable travel money, you don’t have to worry about traffic, peak crowds, everything is in a blur of vacation happiness, you don’t pay much attention to other tourists and the little things, everything is so new, beautiful and refreshing.

    Working and living there is a different story. Incomes are lower due to the desirability of the area among other reasons. The high costs are part of everyday life. You do the same daily grind as anyone else in the country, wake up, sit in traffic, work a 9-5, run errands, do chores, etc. Most locals I know don’t spend much time sitting on a beach. The excitement of the beauty and environment wears off and just becomes normal. The attractiveness of the area and tourism create its own problems. Land is a premium and rich people from across the globe buy up property, driving up costs and eroding the local culture. Desirable properties are bought up then rented or left vacant for most of the year, while locals struggle with housing. Neighborhood homes are turned into airbnb’s that alter the dynamic of the community, certain communities that used to be sleepy local towns are now tourist hubs. Places are more crowded, including places that used to be local hideouts that have garnered attention via social media. Access to trails and other areas have become contentious as more tourist traffic has caused issues. Overall, the more visitors the islands see the more wear and tear they have on both the man-made and natural environment, and there seems to be no interest to slow this down.

    • You make such a great point that living in a place is rarely like vacationing there — you still have to do all the usual life and work stuff like commuting, dealing with traffic, not having time to enjoy the sights, etc. Definitely the same here, minus the commute since we work from home (though I commute to the airport plenty). We’re hoping that will change after we retire, though, and can actually enjoy all this stuff more!

  41. On my long run this morning at 7:00 am I wondered why in the world someone needed to almost run the stop sign and hit me. It’s a Sunday morning and if there is ever a day to chill the %$#$ out it’s a Sunday morning. We learned to travel slow during our trip around the world and will never go back to the mentality of having to see every recommended tourist sight/trap during our vacations. We walk, interact with others, grocery shop and just relax and enjoy the area we are in and don’t worry what we may be missing. The grass isn’t always greener and just being content is the biggest lesson we hope to teach our son.

    • What?! That kind of thing makes me crazy anywhere. :::banging head on keyboard::: What a great gift of your trip that it taught you to slow down and not try to cram everything in! And contentment is always the best lesson. :-)

  42. My city has a lot of tourists and you can always tell who they are. The clothing does it, but the main thing, and the reason locals get frustrated with them, is their inability/refusal to follow local norms and culture. It is shockingly rude. We don’t go to your home town and tell you that the way you live is wrong.

  43. Love the point you make about interacting with locals and taking the time to slow down and ask them for recommendations. We recently went to Ireland, and our trip was SO much better because we received recommendations from our Airbnb hosts for the best restaurants, pubs, and sites to see.

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