Since an early age I found that living in the suburbs wasn’t for me, at least for the foreseeable future. I lived close enough to New York City to visit the place often and have become enamored with towns and cities that you can visit. This may be one of the reasons I find myself putting cities on my travel list instead of landmarks, but I think it is also for a variety of other reasons. In America at least there is a resurgence in the popularity of city life with my generation. Those who grew up in small towns or suburbs of larger cities begin to see the city as a great place to start their life. This may explain why people want to move there, but then why do many travelers gravitate towards cities while abroad.
There are a number of reasons to travel to a city instead of a small town and I think for the most part it comes down to ease. It is much easier to find a bit of information about what to do in a city and the best way to get there, some of my visits to neighboring cities while I was living in Europe took all of an hour to plan. I looked up a few cheap hostels, what weekends were relatively cheap and booked a bus or train ticket. I can pretty easily forget about the trip until I need to pack for it without doing more research on things like if there is a place to stay nearby and if I’ll be able to get around the area. I can easily assume there will be a number of hostels that will suit me okay, and that there is a reasonably easy public transit system in place. When I get to the hostel I’ll talk to a few travelers and locals working there to find the sights and I’ll have wasted just about no time to set myself up for a great long weekend or weekend in a new city.
That’s not all though, there are a lot more reasons why I feel the urge to visit cities more often and that is because they’re real. Cities are living breathing embodiments of the region or the individual city’s culture. No matter how many tourists are visiting there are still people going to their jobs, studying at their university and so on that make up the city. Unlike many tourist destinations cities exist for more than the people visiting them and so almost never feel like they are being exploited for the sake of the tourists. In this way cities are able to retain a certain amount of unique culture individual to each city and shaping the people who choose to live there and the city’s development.
Despite this pervasive culture within a certain city most cities operate in much the same way. This makes it easy to navigate them even if it is only your first time visiting. There are number of standard things that all cities have, most cities have a downtown area, an area where a large minority population exists, a high class shopping street, a public transit system, a river or body of water, and a museum about the city’s history. You may not find each one of these in every city but you would be hard pressed to find a city without four or five of these. These are the things that make Montreal feel a little bit like Bern, and Singapore a little bit like London, small cultural similarities and the similarities of all cities can make a city you’ve never been to feel slightly familiar even if the language filling your ears is alien.
The last reason I really enjoy visiting cities is because with the relatively small people you know in the world you’re likely to run into a friendly face in a city while you’re traveling. Maybe the friend you made a month ago in a hostel crosses your path, or an old college friend moved there a year or two and can show you around. As great as traveling can be there is a lot to be said for seeing a city through the eyes of a local, and as great as many of the national parks or landmarks are, you most likely won’t find a friend or an acquaintance living in them.