I like to think I'm not dumb, but there have been occasions where this premise has been tested. I'll be traveling somewhere and end up eating at an Italian restaurant in a piazza where the food tastes like frozen, cardboard freezer food. Or I'll visit the Mona Lisa and find that it really wasn't worth my time to see, but discover that having dinner inside the Eiffel Tower was worth ten trips to see Mona. Experiences like these I like to call the hanging fruit of travel.
The Theory of Low Hanging Fruit
Imagine for a second a cherry tree covered in ripe, fresh cherries. If you wanted to pice and try one of these delicious fruits you would grab whatever is within arms reach. Travel is the same way.
The restaurants, hotels and attractions in areas easily accessible by people who don't know the city are the low hanging fruit of the travel world. But, the good news is that just like reaching the cherries on the top of the tree by using a ladder, so too can a little extra effort reap you greater experiences when traveling.
Learning to Grab the High Hanging Fruit
One thing I've learned while traveling is if you spend your time visiting and staying in a part of town that is easily accessible (ie. right off the metro stop, via the bus line, a block west of the main train station, right on the beach, near a major tourist or historical attraction, etc) you aren't getting the full experience. Instead you are either getting a watered down, Americanized experience (there are few places the U.S. hasn't influenced) or a scammy experience that relies on making money by sheer volume of foot traffic in the area and not quality.
I'm always disappointed to leave an establishment of some sort, either restaurant, shop, cafe of whatever, and feel like the business owner is taking advantage of the situation. In one place I used to live incompetent people ran successful businesses only because there was no competition. They had no aptitude for business, no passion to put forth a great product...they only wanted to make easy money or got lucky by getting in on the ground floor. This is a problem I've encountered all over the world.
The worst part of it is knowing that I had committed both my time and money to the experience and found it lacking. I like finding validation of these things, verification that the trip was worth the time and money I committed to it. But, sometimes I just leave a place feeling like a cheap whore.
Maximizing your travel is possible by putting in just a bit more effort. After all how much more time and effort does it take to go to the garage and grab a ladder so you can reach the higher fruit on the tree and achieve a higher yield? Plus, you also get to vote with your money. Instead of giving it to some businessman without integrity or desire to do the right thing you can vote for the higher quaility, more passionate business with your dollars.
What is High Hanging Fruit
High Hanging Fruit is anything that gives you a greater per effort reward. Even though you may have to work harder you also achieve a better experience. Here are some examples and tips:
- Visit residential areas of towns because that's where the best restaurants, cafes and most interesting people are.
- If you exit the main train station and someone propositions you to stay at his/her hotel or hostel say no. The best accommodations don't need to pay some guy euros on the side to stand at the train station and seek out young backpackers.
- Stay away from pub crawls, dollar nights at european bars and McDonalds (unless you are homesick)
- Most major attractions are worth doing at least once.
- If you are debating visiting a museum and you know nothing (or have zero interest) in the content within then don't do it. Museums are established by groups or societies as a way to preserve a specific lifestyle, historical time period, or movement. If you're not interested, you're not interested.
- Price is not a determinant of quality. I've eaten $50 lobster tails with the consistency of rubber bands and $7 schnitzel that rocked my world.
- The above goes for accommodations too. Remember, the closer to el centro the higher the price (and not necessarily the better the quaility)
- Use caution when selecting accommodations near main train stations or transit centers, many are often lower quality and higher in price because of location.
- If you can choose between trying a Tuscan wine at a restaurant in Rome and trying a Tuscan wine at a restaurant in the Tuscany region...do the latter.
- Make a point to walk a few extra blocks outside of the city center to eat or stay at a hotel.
- Remember competition. Competition typically forces businesses to up the ante and provide a better product. Is this the only sushi restaurant in Johannesburg? Is this the only skydiving company in Interlaken? Be leery of quality when companies have a free reign on the market, as there is no incentive to work at increasing value and experience. Coincidentally, this are also the kind of monopolies, monopolies by luck, that give other businesses a bad rep.
Food for Thought:How do you choose more selectively so your travel experience is better?