Are you a lister or a lounger? No, this is not a Zen koan. There are two kinds of travellers: the listers and the loungers . My uncle was a lister. Every time he took us to a new place, h e would charge around furiously, ticking off every known monument and tourist site from his list. My aunt—his wife—on the other hand, was a lounger. All she wanted to do was to sit at a coffee shop and watch the world go by. A lister married to a lounger is usually a recipe for disaster, but somehow they made it work, probably because she left him to his sightseeing lists and he allowed her to lounge around stores and restaurants without insisting that he do the same.
I like to think of myself as both a lister and a lounger, but if I was forced to choose, I’d probably be a lounger. My idea of a good time is to rent a villa for a month in some strange city and soak in the atmosphere. My husband, on the other hand, can lounge around watching cricket for hours, but he is on margin a lister. He likes to see new places, learn the history, visit the museums, talk to guides, engage in some action sport, try new things and buy souvenirs. The idea of going to a new place just to keep the same old routine—cooking, eating, sleeping—befuddles him. What’s the point of flying 3,000 miles if you want to sit around and drink coffee all day, he will say. Like most married couples, we have worked on each other. I have become a sort-of lister and he, a hesitant lounger.
The thing that works in our favour (and the favour of all listers married to loungers) is that certain cities are better suited for lounging and others for ticking off from a sightseeing list. Delhi, for instance, is a lister’s paradise with tonnes of tombs and monuments to visit. Mumbai, on the other hand, is for loungers, with beaches, boardwalks and any number of restaurants to just chill, swill the beer, grill the chicken and gaze around. Bangalore is a lounge city, while neighbouring Chennai has a list of sights an arm long: Mahabalipuram, Crocodile Park, Egmore museum, St Thomas Mount and others.
The world’s great cities offer both, but even with them, you can take a call. London, for instance, has oodles of sights, but is also a great city for bibliophiles and café junkies who just want to sit around with a book. If I had to choose, however, I would say that London is for loungers while New York is for listers. I can hear the howls of protests and only say that my choice was based on the pace of these two cities. New York is more Type A than London; more hard-charging and, therefore, suited to people with lists. London is no slouch when it comes to the work ethic, but it is somehow more civilized, more genteel, more amenable to lounging about.
Some of the world’s most picturesque spots are definitely for loungers. I once visited the lovely Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende, which has little to recommend it except its own prettiness. With cobblestone streets, stain-glassed churches and a large population of artists, San Miguel de Allende was perfect for lounging. Indeed, its citizens did little else. Similarly, Interlaken in Switzerland is just so pretty that all you end up doing is stretching out on the grass by the lakes and eating rösti. Orlando, Florida, on the other hand, is an ugly city full of strip-malls and motels. It is also home to the Disney resorts and a place where you can’t be anything, but a lister. Universal Studios? Been there. Disney? Yup, done that. Epcot Center? On the list. Magic Kingdom? That’s next.
The question then becomes: Which is better—to follow a list, or to absorb a new place from one spot? Yes, yes, I know, the easiest answer is to say, “Do both.” But, again, I tell you to make a call; to choose. Is the point of travel to see and do as many new things as possible, or to do the same old things in a new place and hope to get a new perspective?
I don’t know. I await your response.
Shoba Narayan doesn’t lounge about at home, but does little else when she travels. Email her your feedback at email@example.com