I have long felt that the conceit central to many people's approach to travel-planning, that of cramming as many activities within cities and as many cities and even countries into an itinerary is complete anathema to traveling. Why go somewhere and then set a pace for yourself so strenuous that you don't actually see where you are? In other words, why experience your travel/leisure time at the same breakneck speed that is common to your work life? Isn't the whole point of taking a break that we might actually relax and change things up? I feel strongly enough about this that I need to give this phenomenon a name, so I am calling it "Traveler's Disease" - the fear while traveling that if one stops even for a moment to actually see where one is, one might miss the chance to cover every item on one's crowded itinerary.
I was happy to see Guy Trebay address this phenomenon, albeit in gentler terms than I would obviously, in his article in yesterday's NY Times, "India One, Two, Three" - see http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/travel/through-indias-desert-cities-three-itineraries.html?ref=travel#. But he does back away from discouraging travelers from cramming too much into a trip, in his case, to India - "travelers are not reasonable people," he reasons, "and it is distinctly possible to absorb the essence of India in CliffNotes form."
Obviously, I am being rigid and unfair. Even in my own household, we constantly compromise when planning our travels, bouncing between versions of the two extremes - me representing the "spend an entire vacation in one city and really get to know it" position and my fiancee Therese willingly playing the role of impatient traveler who needs lots of stuff crammed into her itinerary so that she won't feel like she has wasted her travel-money. Of course, the truth is that I also like to fill up an itinerary, and am easily tempted into thinking, "oh, wait, this other city is just a two-hour train ride away - let's do a daytrip!"
I was thrilled to see Mr. Trebay's article, because Therese and I have long had India near the top of our list, but have been forced a couple of times to push it off to next year due to scheduling and monetary issues. For several months, we actually thought we were definitely going there last March, but I convinced Therese it wasn't going to work, so we opted instead for Marrakech and Southern Spain.
Part of our trepidation at putting India on the front burner is that we were previously unable to find a trustworthy agent in the country to set up a tour for us. We figure India is beyond our ability to really grasp the logistics of what traveling there would be like, and an agent there who understands the difficulties Westerners encounter in adjusting to traveling in India is essential.
After pushing India aside that first time, we were intrigued to see tours of India based in the famous Oberoi hotels advertised in Conde Nast Traveler magazine: http://www.oberoihotels.com/special_offers.asp. It is very possible that when we become serious again about planning to visit India, we will book one of those tours.
But we will keep Mr. Trebay's article close at hand. After visiting India 20 times, his advice is sure to prove to be golden, whatever kind of tour or itinerary we choose to adopt on our trip to India!
And of course, writing all this reminds me how much travel planning is almost as much fun as the traveling itself, with its own set of challenges and pitfalls and triumphs. No place is ever exactly the way I picture it, no matter how many photos I see before I get there! I find that I must put other people's vision aside, since the beauty of traveling somewhere is that I am going to have the adventure of seeing it through my own eyes, at my own pace.