It's 1 a.m. in Minneapolis, and my friend and I are sharing a 20-inch tall, boot-shaped glass of beer with three young professionals we just met. Polka music is playing in the background, and the air smells like cinnamon and wood smoke. With each sip of dark brew, we become more pleased that we heeded the advice of a random article about "best hipster bars" and took a cab across town. We each take turns allowing a 75-year-old man to waltz us around the room to the rhythm of the accordion. We laugh at each other's expense when he gets a little too close for comfort. The lights dim and the polka fades into hip hop and the old man disappears. My friend gets caught up in conversation with a dark and handsome stranger. I forget myself and approach the attractive guy I spotted when we first walked in. He's all-American: blonde hair, blue eyes, and built like a football player. I grab his hand and lead him into the crowd, knowing that after tonight, he'll never see me again.
When we travel, we try to absorb as much about a destination as we can. That's the point: to discover some place new and discover more about ourselves in the process. So it makes sense to believe that the longer we stay somewhere, the more we learn.
But there's something to be said for fleeting getaways. The quick trips we take to escape for a moment, where there's not enough time to adapt to a new environment — there's only the present.
When we travel somewhere briefly, we remove the stress around doing things "right." We don't have to worry about running into someone we know, or ordering the wrong food, or mispronouncing a word from our phrasebook. We'll be gone tomorrow.
Short-term travel might seem a little selfish, but only because it's liberating. For one or two days, we can be bolder, braver versions of ourselves. We can come into people's lives suddenly and leave them just as soon — and that's okay. We can throw ourselves right into the heart of a city with no preparation and little hesitation — and often learn more than we ever would have with more time.
Maybe we don't come out with lasting friendships, or a new outlook, or a list of best restaurants, but we still leave with memories. And those are always worth the trip.