I have many times heard people, usually well-traveled such, claim that I cannot possibly "get" a place until I've physically visited it and "experienced it with my own eyes".

But is this really true?

I have basically never traveled. Some of the reasons for this include: lack of money, fear of flying, fear of the cops/thugs in sketchy countries, the total lack of privacy (especially these days), not enjoying being around people in general, not being social whatsoever, not having anyone to travel with, a general inability to generally "get by" even where I live and grew up (let alone in a completely foreign environment), not having the "peace of mind" to simply "see the world" (which I consider very egotistical), etc.

However, I have seen very high-resolution video/audio footage from all around this planet (assuming that they haven't faked all of it somehow, of course, which seems extremely unlikely). For many years. Both in movies, TV series, documentaries, news reels, online videos of various kinds, and, in recent years, live-streamed video from all kinds of exotic and not-so-exotic places.

Of course, if somebody were to film the place where I grew up (or even allowed me to do it) and then show it to somebody across the world, I wouldn't consider them to have "understood" what it means to me. But then again, I wouldn't expect that even if they had physically come here and seen it in with their own eyes. (And not just because it has been changed/ruined since.)

Maybe people who say this mean that I cannot know how people would treat me just because they treated the person filming/streaming location X well/bad? And of course, there might be many things that aren't shown in the video/stream. For example, maybe somebody considers the local females to be extremely attractive and love foreigners, but won't say that in a documentary. That's an example of information I'd be missing from just watching a video/stream of some place.

Still, overall, I consider myself to have a very good grasp of basically every "commonly known" place on this planet, as in, I get that there are nice and cheap massage places in numerous "poor" countries, and that they have various beautiful locations, but I also know how badly kept their buildings are and how badly the animals are treated, how dangerous it is and how easy it is to get scammed, etc.

While I'm not pretending to be "well traveled", since I'm not, I wonder if my collected understanding of the world from watching so many different videos of various kinds, oftentimes with zero talking/music/cuts, isn't at least "quite enough" for me to determine that it's not worth it for me to put a fortune of my measly savings to travel to some of those places which seem the most appealing to me.

As pathetic as it may sound, in many ways, I'm "content" with having just "been to" these places in my mind, aided by the video/audio footage. In a few cases, when I had a VR headset, I "visited" some places in VR, which was as immersive as technology allows for.

Yes, it could be that, upon arriving in China, all the beautiful Chinese girls flock around me and start attacking me with kisses and hugs, treating me like a famous superstar. I'm sure that's what a lot of male travelers hope for. However, in reality, I'd likely be just another stupid tourist, and the only girls who talk to me are part of a scam gang. Fast-forward an hour and I realize that my wallet is gone and so are those charming young ladies who just wanted to take a photo with the "exotic foreigner".

What I'm trying to say is that, given that I'm an antisocial loser "back home" (here, that is), I strongly doubt that a change of scenery would change anything about that. I frankly have zero interest in walking around with a camera and shopping in stores selling identical items to tourists, and I have many times asked myself what the point is of traveling at all, and how there can be so many people who pay so much money and spend so much time, energy and enthusiasm doing this.

It would be a different matter if I were especially invited by some royalty, or if I were rich with my own super-yacht, or had to go and inspect a factory of mine or something like that. Then there'd be a good reason for me to be there, rather than just desperately hoping for "good things" to happen to me just because I go far away from where my home is.

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    This is not a question about travel as such and I expect several close votes soon. I think you can not experience a location without going there. Besides seeing, you have smelling, hearing, feeling the temperature and wind and more of those. And eating the local foods, talking with the local people and more. And that is besides even the best filming can never show you everything.
    – Willeke
    Mar 29 '20 at 19:04
  • Welcome Nevel, but SE is not a discussion site: instead, it craves specific questions that can be directly answered, not discussed. Yours is a perfect example of "What Not to Ask" as described on the Help [travel.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask] page. VTC. Mar 29 '20 at 19:08
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    No matter where you go, there you are. Travel isn't an escape from yourself or your problems. That said, if you really want to experience some place, then by all means do so. Going to tourist hotspots or acting like a stereotypical tourist is certainly not required. You can likely find something of interest to you personally in almost any city in the world, if you look closely enough. It could also be that you aren't the sort of person who derives pleasure from travel. There's nothing wrong with that. Mar 29 '20 at 19:43
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    The opposite can apply too: I have seen a group of tourists get off a coach, spend a few minutes taking photographs, and depart, knowing that none of them had enjoyed any sense of presence or experience of the place. They have ticked it off their list. Back to the question: "I strongly doubt that a change of scenery would change anything about that." How would you know that? The entire post is supposition, misconception and negativity. Mar 29 '20 at 21:18
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    One more thing. I have been to some lovely, some horrible and some very different places to my own country. In doing so I've been ready to accept that things will be different. Yet the country where I experienced the biggest culture shock was America. Not because of what it is, but because I had assumed I knew what it would be like, after life-long exposure to its influence and culture. But I was wrong, and I hope you can see that your suppositions are wrong too, as well as the way in which you are imagining those places to be. As soon as you can: grab a pack and go. Mar 29 '20 at 21:33
  1. Having been in thirty countries and taken photos in most, I'm thoroughly convinced that there is a huge difference between seeing a hundred photos of specific parts of an area at specific moments and seeing all of it over a length of time. Even a video can't compare with one's own field of vision.
  2. The photographs won't show you what the traveler didn't photograph.  They will show you all sorts of beautiful things.  But if you go there, and walk down the street yourself, you'll also see the trash and garbage people have thrown to the ground, the pitiful people (or pretending to be pitiful) with their hands out, the abandoned buildings, the things that would have put the traveler in jail if he dared to attempt to photograph them, etc.
  3. No written description can compare with the actual smells, tastes, textures, and sounds.
  4. No written description of cultural attitudes can compare with experiencing it in the expressions on their faces and the tone of their voices.

Now, if you want reasons to stay home: (1) less likely to meet pickpockets; (2) less likely to be arrested for things that you take for granted in your own country; (3) less likely to get ripped off due to the difficulty of currency conversion in your head.


The experience of being at a place, seeing directly with my own eyes, is totally different, for me, from photographs etc.

I don't use a camera much, because I often go to places for which there are already plenty of expert photos. I buy few souvenirs. I don't go to pick up boys, and am careful about letting strangers get close enough to steal from me. I don't go to fill some hole in my everyday life, because I am happy at home when not traveling. I simply go to experience the place.

The only way you can know whether you need to visit a place to get it the way you would if you were there is to travel, at least once, to a place that is familiar through VR. If the actual experience adds nothing for you, that is enough travel. If you find being there adds to your experience of that place, go on traveling to other places.

If you don't make the experiment, you can't know what, if anything, you are missing.


It sounds more like a rant than an actual question but I understand the sentiment of the expression.

You can of course see a place from photos and videos but that is just a small part a place. It's like judging a person from their photo. You wouldn't expect a person that sees a photo of your or even 100 to get you, just as one cannot get a place by looking at photos from there. Sure, after seeing your photo, people might be able to identify you. It will be the same for any place.

To understand a place you have to be there, not because you must see it with your own eyes, but because you can experience it. It is the culmination of all that you see, hear, smell, feel and the interaction you have with the place that makes you get the place.

Equally important is that it takes time to get a place. There are many people who travel that go through places and don't get those places. The experience you have in just one moment is not representative. In order to get a place, you have to see it change, see it's people or animals or vegetation and how they live there. Sometimes its takes a while. I don't even count a country as visited if I don't spend at least one night there and even so it takes much to truly understand a place.

Don't forget that places have scale. If you land in China and spend an entire month in Beijing. Maybe you will get Beijing but you certainly will not get China. On the opposite scale, if you saw video and entire documentaries on the Carnaval in Rio, I am certain you will will not get it either, despite it being confined to some kilometers within a city. The total experience of seeing the spectacle, hearing the sound, being surrounded by the crowd and having waited in line 5 hours ahead of opening to get a good place while waiting for an even that runs all night can only be fully understood by being there to get it.


Yes, I think it is true. What is lacking is a feeling for an atmosphere of a place that is often acquired subconsciously.

You seemed to have done a lot of background research for many places, which is a good idea to do.

Many peaple do to much and therefore get only little bit of everything.

This may be useful as a general orientation, where afterwords you say this one place interest me the most, so on the next trip spend many weeks to get to know it well.

If you are not a gregarious person, the are a lot of regions were the peaple there are less gregarious themselfs and won't impose themselfs that much. But you can still wander around and try out the local foods and collect impressions of a place that is different than yours.

With a proper preparation (as you are doing) and a careful selection of what suits you best, you might find it an interesting and worthwhile experience.

Such impressions (of an individual) cannot be caught in a photo or video.

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