Seeing Vs. Doing

One of the problems I always have when planning some of the bigger trips is the ever present dilemma of doing versus seeing.

Allow me to elaborate while also showing off how international I am.

My past two “big” trips were Ireland and Iceland.

I was in Ireland for a little bit over two weeks and for that amount of time saw a good chunk of the island. We started in Dublin, moved across the country to Galway and Connemara, toured up and down the western coast, stayed in Killarney for two nights where we toured the Dingle Peninsula and almost all of County Kerry, drove along the southern coast and stayed in Cork, stopped for lunch in Kilkenny, headed back to Dublin and took the train up to Belfast were we stayed for a couple of days before driving across Northern Ireland to the medieval city of Derry and then all along the northern Irish coast before our last night directly outside of the Belfast International Airport.

We saw a lot of Ireland and there’s too many spots along the routes that we stopped for either pictures or tours for me to even mention. The downside was that we spent an awful lot of time traveling and a lot of time on organized tours. A lot of our picture stops were for just a couple of minutes.

We did a lot of seeing.

Iceland on the other hand was very much a “doing” vacation.

We stayed in Reykjavik for the duration of our stay (which was a week and a day) and didn’t stray much further than the southwestern corner of the country. We did rent a car one day and took a 10 hour roundtrip drive along the southern Ring Road to the Jokusarlon Glacial Lagoon (and of course it was raining by the time we got there) but generally did not stray that far from the capital. We did a lot though. We walked all around Reykjavik. We participated in it’s infamous nightlife, staying out till 6 in the morning. We went snowmobiling on a glacier and rafted down a river that said glacier produced. On that rafting trip we (or I) jumped off of a cliff into the whitewater (ok, so it wasn’t white water but that makes me sound cooler) and then we were treated to a delicious Icelandic lamb bbq. We hiked to a hot spring river, visited and soaked in the famed Blue Lagoon and hiked to several giant waterfalls and to the base of the biggest glacier in Europe. We went horseback riding across lava fields, went on a tour of one of Iceland’s premiere breweries and went snorkeling in the fissure between the European and North American continents. We spent one hungover afternoon in an Icelandic thermal pool relaxing the way real Rekjavikers would. We didn’t necessarily see much of the country but we did a hell of a lot.

Which brings me to do the doing versus seeing conundrum.

It seems that oftentimes when planning a trip you’re forced to pick between the two. Do you do a lot or do you see a lot and I realize that there is a way to find a happy medium but personally I tend to focus on one versus the other and was curious as to what some other travelers and trip planners preferred?

Me? I think I’m usually more apt to do rather than see. While both Ireland and Iceland were amazing trips that I wouldn’t trade for the world, I think I actually enjoyed Iceland a tiny bit more (which shocks the hell out of me as I’m pretty much obsessed with everything and anything Irish) just because we did so much. Sure, there are parts of the country I didn’t’ see (which is what return trips are for) but I go to do so much. When I think back on most of my favorite trips in recent memory, Iceland, Lake Placid, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, my favorites are the ones chock full of different activities, even if there are large portions of the locales I didn’t get to actually see.

So what’s the general consensus out there? Would you rather do or see?

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