Ever since I started writing about my travels at Home to Havana, I’ve become keenly aware of the importance of sharing every useful detail. Elaborating about everything I tried, liked and disliked, and exactly what I did or would have done differently. The most common questions I get are about the minute details I’ve left out – what time does the bus usually come at the station in Havana? That restaurant sounds good – what should I order there? How much should it cost to get me from point A to point B?
Part of the value offered in sharing about travels and offering recommendations is getting detailed enough for it to be actionable for people. Offering just enough for everyone and touching upon what might resonate with them. Writing in the online space is no longer just like keeping an online diary – it’s about creating a resource for others.
In a time where people criticize technology and the internet for causing us not to “read any more,” you’d be surprised how much reading and research we can do when it comes to planning and preparing for travel. It seems like they dive in, plan and prepare day by day and moment by moment, with the internet searches to prove it.
But there is so much more to travel than ticking things off a to-do or must-see list.
When writing some recent travel guides to some of my favorite destinations – a travel guide to Varadero, Cuba and a travel guide to Mindo, Ecuador, I was struck by how these places both have something important in common. Though very different in many ways, my favorite part of visiting them was completely tossing the to-do list and simply doing nothing. Yes, relaxing in the most extreme sense, laying about, enjoying a nice view, reflecting on simple things rather than the stresses of everyday life. It is a simple pleasure that seems to be getting more and more lost in travel these days.
In Varadero, Cuba, a beach town just two hours east of Havana, there is little to do other than relax on the beach and enjoy the incredible white sand and the perfect ocean water. Even though there are some great all-inclusive resorts and hotels in town, most of the beach is public, with public entrances every few blocks. With over 18km of perfect beach, it is easy to find a quiet spot even on a busy day. There is nothing as enjoyable as relaxing on the sand and taking a dip in the ocean, which somehow defies science and seems to never be even slightly rough.
Similarly, in Mindo, Ecuador, though an adventure sports capital with plenty of activities to keep anyone busy, what brought me back, again and again, was the desire to unwind in a hammock overlooking a quiet creek and the entrance to the cloud forest. In the two years that I lived in Mindo, I probably visited at least six or seven times, always returning to that same hammock at the entrance to the cloud forest and celebrating doing nothing.
There is plenty more to do in these places, but when I reflect back on my time there and think about what I take away from the experience of having visited, I reflect on these quiet moments of relaxation and enjoying doing nothing.
Surely there are those that still travel for the sole purpose of unwinding, taking time to sit in front of the same pool for a week on end in some resort or on some beach somewhere, taking a trip solely to escape from the “real world” back home. But it seems these days that more than ever, travel is all about doing and seeing as much as one possibly can in the shortest span of time.
I wonder if more than ever with our Instagram obsession and our “pics-or-it-didn’t-happen” penchant for wanting to collect experiences rather than things, this is made even worse.
There is something to be said about completely unwinding in travel, and throwing away the to-do list. Take it from the girl who is writing the to-do lists you’re reading online – sometimes disconnecting and doing nothing is exactly what you need.