Why do we travel to icons?

Quick! What do the Eiffel Tower, The Tower of London, and the Acropolis all have in common? They are international icons of travel. They also seem to find themselves on bucket lists all over the world. Crowds of tourists line up to marvel at these wonders time and time again. From the Great Pyramids to the San Fransisco Bridge, icons seem to anchor the travel dreams of so many.

black metal fence near brown concrete building during daytime

Why are icons Icons?

Whether for architecture or technology, whether for historical significance or controversial curiosity, icons prove their staying power time and time again. The visual impact and historical “how did they do that” draw make them not only symbols for the regions in which they reside but also stand for the enlighten progress of culture after culture. They become so engrained in our minds that we use them as touch points to connect us with destinations. I mean, if you go to Rome and don’t go to the Coliseum, people would question your travel savvy. For the record: I did go and I didn’t visit it and people did question me.

brown concrete building near trees during daytime

So why do we feel the need to see them?

From the Great Wall to Machu Picchu, icons deliver. They are big, they speak to the power of man’s quest for knowledge and they weave together the fabric of time. Open any guidebook and at the top of the list will always be a five star rating for the local icon. There’s a certain excitement as you approach, as you stand where history unfolded, and where you see what great people viewed as they did.

brown ruin building during daytime

The Eiffel Tower is a perfect example. It’s a marvel of turn-of-the-century engineering. Simply riding in the elevator is an experience unto itself! Step off and look at the same view that heroes and villains alike saw. Walk once around the second deck and you’ve stood where Elvis, Hitler, Christie, and even James Bond stood. Get up close to the structure and examine how this huge erector set is constructed and how they maintain it. Look out over the view and get the lay of the land as you scan arrondissement by arrondissement taking in the Arch, the Louvre, and the Sacre Couer in the distance. It’s sublime and worthwhile.

red telephone booth near brown concrete building during daytime

Why do we feel like we should skip them?

But as you take in that very icon, you also take in a few uncomfortable truths. Go to the Acropolis and you are bound to run into tour guides guiding cruisers up the path and crowding all of the best viewing angles. Along with them, pick pockets jockey to saddle up to the most accessory laden bags. Often, souvenir hawkers hang around and put pressure on visitor after visitor to buy tacky, cheap, made in China nonsense. It’s enough to make you think twice!

The same thing happens in New York City as you take in the bright lights of Broadway in Times Square. Life size Elmos with matted fur and shady guys trying to sell same day tickets to the best show in town all seem to rise to the surface.

a house with a fence around it

As I read fellow travel blogs, I see a clear trend that recommends moving away from those well known venues. Travel writers, seeking to expand their horizons, seem to leave these icons in the dust and leave the information about places like Sagrada Familia and Buckingham Palace to local tourist boards. After all, they’ve got all the information one could possibly need.

brown concrete castle at daytime

Not So Fast!

While the crowds can be insane and your first instinct may be to say “pass!”, we here at Babcia and YiaYia say hold your horses! Icons are icons for a reason. They represent so much and they are crowded because most of them are that good. Evaluating whether an icon should make it on to your itinerary is worth the time and effort. While Edinburgh Castle may make it to the top, the Guinness Brewery might find its way to the deleted file- and that’s okay! Weighing their worth in the balance is a perfect way to decide if its right for you!

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