Why You Should Explore Little Known Locations
Europe holds so much more than just its famous countries’ capitals.
When I embarked on my study abroad semester, I had three months ahead of me to explore the great continent of Europe. I spent my weeks studying and going to class, but every Friday through Sunday my classmates and I were able to travel freely around the continent. It was both liberating and intimidating to have the whole of Europe available to explore. We could visit any city we wanted, money permitting, as long as we were back for class on Monday. The obvious options for any student studying in Europe are London, Paris, and Rome: the big romantic cities with famous landmarks and hundreds of hostel and restaurant options. But there’s something to be said about exploring the less cliché places. Europe holds so much more than just its famous countries’ capitals. There are small countries amongst the large ones that are just as packed with art, history, and great food, as their better-known, larger counterparts.
One particular weekend my travel companions and I rented a car and drove from our campus in the Netherlands to the fourth smallest country in Europe, Luxembourg. We had an amazing time exploring the rolling hills and many castles of the small country. Here’s why you should consider traveling to a lesser known but just as amazing location.
There are certain countries that include “must-sees”. These are places or landmarks that you feel you must visit when you go to a well-known country. For example, if you mention that you’re going to Rome, there will likely be five different people who will tell you things like “you just have to do the tour of the Roman forum” or “make sure to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain!”. But sometimes, in the haste of trying to hit all the famous spots, your trip can seem extremely rushed and the things you’re trying to see can seem less exciting because of it. When you’re worried about fitting it all in, Big Ben can seem a little less tall, and the canals of Venice a little less blue. There’s also the worry that you’ve built up the idea of something so much in your head, that you can’t have as good an experience in person. If you’ve always dreamed of viewing the Mona Lisa in person, you may be disappointed when you arrive at the Louvre and notice that the painting is hidden behind glass, a rope, and a hoard of people.
However, it doesn’t always have to be this way. If there are no expectations, there can be no disappointments! Traveling to a less visited country eliminates the expectations created by other travelers and yourself. It opens you up to being more spontaneous and allows for unplanned explorations to all different parts of the city. There doesn’t have to be a schedule when there’s not specific things you feel you have to see!
Everything is a Surprise
It is basic knowledge that Paris holds the Eiffel Tower, and that it’s an insanely beautiful piece of architecture. The popular tourist countries of Europe are filled with major landmarks that we’ve all seen on post cards and in movies. Seeing these famous spots is amazing but a little magic is lost due to the fact that you probably already know what to expect. If you choose to visit a lesser known country or city, there are no preconceptions of the place. Around every corner is an unseen monument, a hidden castle, a little known museum, or a new restaurant. It’s quite fun exploring and not knowing what will be coming next. Everything seems new and shiny, and that much more interesting.
I had never even heard of the small country of Luxembourg before I decided to spontaneously go there, which made discovering the little country all the more exhilarating. There were no stock images ingrained in my brain to ruin the surprise. I was truly seeing it for the first time, and it was beautiful.
When you come back from traveling, you will have dozens of stories to share with your loved ones. Your friends and family will be excited to hear these stories, but for many of them they will feel a pang of jealousy. They’ve seen and heard what places like Paris and Berlin are like, and they have probably dreamed of seeing it for themselves. So instead of rehashing a well-known story about a trip to one of Europe’s most famous cities, why not surprise them by regaling them with a tale of a little-known, magical land that they know little about? My family members, who politely listened to my adventures in Madrid and London, moved to the edge of their seats when I began to describe the foggy forests, and quaint villages of Luxembourg. They laughed at the story about the vintage toy museum my group stumbled upon, and asked for more details about the castle tour that we went on. The trip to this unfamiliar country provided me with unique stories that people were immensely interested in.
Traveling to a place you’ve never been before is fun. Traveling to a place you’ve never even heard of is even more fun. I vividly remember speaking to my dad over the phone after my weekend, and him saying to me, “That was a good choice going to Luxembourg this weekend. The only other way you would have ended up going there is if you became an investment banker”. He said may have said it jokingly, but it really resonated with me. I’m sincerely glad I explored somewhere new. In conclusion, take a chance, explore somewhere new, and I promise you’ll have no regrets.