When I hopped onto the bus that would take me from Beirut back to Aleppo, Syria, I spent the first few minutes daydreaming about the Aleppan cuisine that awaited me at the end of the journey. And then I spent the rest of the 6 hour trip feeling extremely guilty for leaving Lebanon after only 13 days.
This is a feeling I often deal with, one that results from walking along a thin line between trying to avoid living a life full of regrets and trying to gain as intense an education as I can from my travels. If my goal was only to have the best time possible in every country I visit, then I would never feel guilty for leaving a place. But when a significant portion of my travel motivation derives from a genuine desire to educate myself through first-hand experiences, then I often feel that it is my responsibility to remain in a country for at least a month, even two or three. Of course, I am aware that even a few months is not a sufficient amount of time to truly ‘discover’ a place, but it does offer a significantly better opportunity than a much quicker visit.
And since I rarely have a set itinerary and I rarely have any place where I need to be, there is nothing stopping me from staying in one place for a long, long time. So was my decision to leave Lebanon after only 13 days, a decision I made not because I didn’t enjoy the country, but simply because I woke up one morning and decided to move on, fair to Lebanon?
This is what I was left to think about on that bus ride back to Aleppo, as I asked myself such questions as, ‘Did I properly explore the country?’, ‘Did I learn enough?’, ‘Did I meet enough people?’, over and over again.
And while 13 days might sound like a lot of time to some, I am certain that it will sound like practically nothing at all to others. I did a great deal during those 13 days and spent much time visiting regions outside of Beirut, however, I could have easily stayed longer, visited more places, spoke with more people and in the end, learned infinitely more.
So my question is:
Is it my responsibility as a traveler to ignore my desire to be surrounded by delicious Aleppan cuisine and super-friendly Syrians and instead stay true to my goal of educating myself as much as possible about every country I visit?
Or is this just me being silly and if I want some Aleppan cuisine, then nothing should stop me from jumping on the next bus that will lead me straight to it?
I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts on what you feel is ‘enough’ time to spend in a country. Do you ever wonder if you’re leaving a country too soon or feel guilty for staying only a short while?