The Myth of the “Must-See”

We’ve all encountered articles in our newsfeeds with attention grabbing titles:

  • The top 30 places you must see before you die
  • 14 things  you must not miss the next time you’re in Berlin
  • Amazing must-sees: Seattle EATS edition

These are intriguing  headlines, right?  By design they are written to catch your  attention and offer inspiration as you plan your next getaway. and can give you some really excellent travel inspiration. They help you answer the question, “What do I wish to fill my days with the next time I visit _____?” The problem with many of these articles is they are rooted in one massive misguided assumption: they know your interests and desires for the trip.


IMG_5290What  they failed to take into account is that everybody has their own opinions, their own likes, their own desires, and of course limitations. And just because it’s good for somebody does not mean everybody has to like it or even do it. These type of “must see” lists create within me immense pressure and guilt. And, given the challenges I inevitably face with each trip, that’s the last thing I need! Accessible travel is one part desire and one part reality. Often those two come together quite nicely. And often times, not so much

“You’ve gone to Paris and didn’t visit the very top of the Eiffel Tower? Wow, it’s seriously the most amazing thing.” No man, they wouldn’t let me! I still had a brilliant time and I don’t feel like I missed out – so don’t make me feel like my experience wasn’t complete without this particular event. Also… one more thing, roses are red, violets are blue, I have 5 fingers, the 3rd one is for you.

nope… No thank you!

Unless you are spending significant time in a singular location the likelihood that you are going to see everything is slim to none. To be fair, I can undoubtedly say that most of us haven’t seen everything even in our own hometown. Guilty! So, I’ve learned to prioritize what types of things I am interested in, and what is not worth the effort. Especially with European travel –many cities have buildings that are not wheelchair accessible. Super annoying. What I would really love to do is go beat on those 12th-century architects’ graves and ask them to put in some ramps, elevators, and a couple coffee stands if they can swing it. Since that likely won’t be happening anytime soon I’m left with limited options. Option a) spend the effort to find people to help carry me, or my wheelchair, and figure out how to see this monument.

Enjoying some serious option B time!

Or option B) bag it – find the nearest gin bar and get my people watching on. In all fairness, I have done both. And what I have learned from this experience is that a good pub can be significantly undervalued.

There is this myth that if you don’t see the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sagrada Família in Barcelona, the Grand Canal in Venice, or the Blue Lagoon in Iceland that your travel experience wasn’t complete, or it doesn’t count. To be clear, that is utter B. S.. Of course these destinations are beautiful but you don’t have to see them to make your travel story worthy. And if you do go, your experience of that place is ultimately decided by you.

Travel isn’t about putting up tally marks. It’s not even about completing what we call our bucket list. We have bucket lists because it provides inspiration for journeys and experiences, not so we get a perfect checkmark next to an item. Travel is about self-discovery – what are YOU most interested in, stepping out of our comfort zone, trying new things, and having fun. When I find myself in the situation where I have to decide what to do, I zero in on what will be easy and fun and ask myself “will the effort of this attraction be worth it?” Letting go of the  “must see” guilt and focusing on your own enjoyment of the journey will open up more doors for a better experience.IMG_2036


4 thoughts on “The Myth of the “Must-See”

  1. I’ve been to Paris twice and I’ve never been to the top of the Eiffel Tower either. I didn’t feel like it was necessary. And I absolutely do not feel like I missed anything!


  2. My fave time in Paris (as a 20-something) was sitting in the outside brasseries and people watching — while sipping wine and eating cheese! No way did I want to be stuck in a museum.
    Loved this article, Jessie! Great for a big-time travel magazine!!


  3. Jess,   I left a “reply.”  Loved this article.  It’s so true.   In my experiences, who wants to be a sheep-herded into all the tourists places.  I want the back-alley little country-side pub to hang out in, to speak broken French to the locals.   As a New Yorker, I was recently asked by a friend, who is visiting NYC in the fall, what to do.  I gave her some pointers, and to take into account the sheer enormous size of the City and to group activities  i.e. If you’re downtown, Trinity Church (Alex Hamilton is buried there), Wall Street, Ground Zero memorial pools, Staten Island ferry (it’s free and one gets great photo ops of the city, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, etc..)  But, to AVOID the Statue of Liberty!!, which was her first choice 😦   She would have been waiting on long lines, which would have wasted 1/2 of her day.   If you’re headed to NYC, Jess, I’ll give you some “unwanted, not asked for” advice!  HA!!   Send your “guilt free vacation” piece to a big mag like Travel & Leisure.  Go for the big glossies!!  This piece is a winner.   Hugs, sue


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