It’s a common debate that you will overhear in in hostels around the globe. Some people are city haters and avoid them as much as possible. Others love city-hopping their way around the globe and get bored easily in quieter destinations. Here’s my take on the cities vs countryside debate.
Why I love cities
Cities have it all. There are so many neighbourhoods to discover. You can do the touristy things in the morning, then spend the afternoon exploring the cafe culture or admiring street art. It’s easy to spend weeks (or years) in one city and still feel like you’ve barely scratched the surface.
Cities are full of surprises. I love finding their hidden treasures and secrets. It’s facsinating to wander the streets of the posh neighbourhoods and see how wealth and status are expressed in that culture. You can see the poorer areas and better understand the social issues of the city.
It’s interesting to see protests in the street and learn about what people there care about. You might notice the influence and interactions of different subcultures in the urban landscape.
Speaking of complexity does anyone else feel a massive sense of achievement after conquering a foreign public transport system?
Vibrant cultural scene
It’s in the cities of the world that you will find Picasso’s masterpieces and world-class opera performances. Cities can act as the cultural epicentre of a whole country, and so if you’re looking to delve into a country’s creative side, don’t skip the cities.
Easy travel base
One good thing about cities is that they’re usually set up pretty well for tourists. You can easily find transport to the other places you want to go and get advice for your upcoming adventures.
Accurate representation of local life
Life in the country may be more exciting for tourists because it’s often quite traditional and therefore more novel to Westerners. But that doesn’t necessarily make it a more ‘authentic’ representation of a country. You’ll find the majority of a country’s population living in the city and working in 9-5 jobs. Don’t underestimate the value of noticing and appreciating the similarities. Don’t try to fit a country into your stereotypes, just accept it as it is.
Cities are full of dreamers
Since the industrial revolution, cities have been a place where people come to create themselves. They want to find their fortune, make their mark on the world, seize opportunities and build their dreams. They want to meet people, to fall in love, to make money or to change the world. I’m one of those people who came to the city chasing a dream, so I’ll always have a soft spot for city life.
BUT it’s not all fun and games.
Confronting the city
You’ll see beggars on the streets, and you might notice racial divides or misogyny. The joys of the city also bring with it the inevitable problems that occur when millions of people live in proximity to each other.
Dangers of the city
You’re more likely to encounter violence and crime in cities, from pickpockets to muggings to worse. Especially as a solo female, you might feel less safe walking around at night. This isn’t a reason to avoid cities, but is something to keep in mind while you’re there.
Cities can be isolating
You’re just another lonely face in the crowd. You’re not part of a small town community. However, it can also be nice to have a sense of anonymity. As one individual in a crowded city of millions, you can feel a healthy awareness of your own life’s insignificance.
The constant noise and buzzing energy can be stressful. Sometimes you just need to shut everything out and get your zen on. For me, that’s when I know it’s time for a trip to the countryside.
Why I love the countryside
From the temple towns of India to the villages of Umbria, some of my most magical travel experiences have been outside of the cities. There are so many reasons to love travelling to these areas.
Charms of traditional life
The small Europe will make all your cobblestoned dreams come true. If you want to live a fairytale, make your way here.
Slower pace of life
People in the countryside seem to have time to slow down and say hello. They don’t worry about the time on old clock that rings through the main square on the hour. They’ll sit and chat that afternoon away with you and laugh generously when you pronounce their language wrong.
When we dream of the countryside, it’s often as a place to reconnect with ourselves. To escape from the outside noise and listen to the voice within us or the whispers of the wind through the trees.
No McDonalds or H&M in sight. Winner. The countryside is great for escaping the globalised world. Only downside is when you get a sudden craving for Pad Thai. (Unless of course, you’re in countryside Thailand)
You’ll find a more old-fashioned way of life that hasn’t been engulfed in modern development. It’s charming and inspiring and different. Although, this can be a problem when it comes at the cost of the locals’ standard of living.
Find your niche
Maybe you’re a really serious foodie and you just have to see the town that invented parmesan cheese. Maybe you’re a literature fan and you’ve been dreaming of visiting the town your fave story was set in. If there’s some specific interest drawing you to a place, follow that curiosity. You never know where it will lead.
Logistically simple (at least once you get there)
You don’t have to worry about navigating a metro system because you can walk everywhere within a country town. But travelling between places may be more complicated.
BUT sometimes they’re just too touristy
In peak tourist season, some small towns can feel as if they only exist for the benefit of the foreigners that visit. They’re playgrounds for holiday-makers and locals only live there in order to make money off the tourist industry. You might find more tourists than locals living there.
Is the city or the countryside for you? It completely depends on your style and your mood. Some days I’m a city slicker, others I want the country bumpkin life. Maybe small cities like Sarajevo are the best of both worlds.
Which side are you on? Let me know in the comments!