What, exactly, qualifies as saying you've "been" somewhere? And by "been," I mean experienced. Because let's face it, when someone says, "Oh, I've been to Ohio/Ottawa/Outer space," the assumption is they've actually had a meaningful experience in the place, explored, learned something firsthand while they were there. But increasingly, I hear people touting long lists of places they've "been," that in reality are places they passed through, "experienced" as layovers, or were connect-the-dots on a road trip to somewhere else.
Example: when Bear and I were in England last year, we took a day trip to Stonehenge, Bath, and Windsor. There was a pretentious Australian couple on the trip with us, going on and on about what all they'd been doing, and I heard the girl say, "Oh yeah, we did London one day last week."
Um... what? You "did" London—one of the coolest, oldest, most culturally rich cities in the world—in a day? I always wonder what exactly they "did," though I have a feeling it was something like this: take famous red double decker bus tour, see major sites from bus, get dinner, go back to hotel, leave the next morning.
I mean, really. On the way to and from England, Bear and I spent 5 hours in Helsinki International Airport, but is it realistic to say I've "been" to Finland? Sure I have technically, and sure I learned a few things (such as: Bear must have Scandinavian blood in him—every single airport worker in Helsinki looked like him—over 6 feet, blond, blue-eyed, even the same type of nose. It was freaky. I'm sure this isn't representative of the whole country, but those were the people working in the airport, no lie.), but c'mon.
So again, what qualifies as having "been" somewhere? It's a hard thing to define. To illustrate, let's go back to my day trip: I would say I've "been" to Stonehenge. There's not a whole lot to do there, and I spent 45 minutes walking the perimeter of it pondering the huge stones, who put them there, how they relate to the stars, etc. And I'd say I've "been" to Windsor, because I saw basically everything a tourist could see at Windsor (though I would love to go back someday and see it all much. more. slowly. Seriously, you're talking to someone who spent an entire hour in ONE room at the British Museum studying medieval artifacts).
But Bath? We spent a little over an hour there. All we got to do was walk around and pop into a couple shops. Beautiful, beautiful Bath. Would I say I've "been" there? Well, obviously I've technically been there. But have I truly experienced it? No. If you asked me about Bath, I would tell you something along the lines of: I only got to spend an hour or so there but I really liked what I saw and I'd like to go back one day. I would not say, "Oh yeah, I've been to Bath it's so wonderful you really must go some day blah blah blah."
I'm not trying to be all lawyer-y. Obviously, if you've been somewhere, you've been somewhere. But when you present an experience as something it's not to garner impressed looks or to achieve a higher opinion from others, it boils down to is misrepresentation, which is annoying.
I'm not saying you need to bold-italics-underline experience every single place you go, or that you can't learn things by passing through. I mean, I've never done more than stop in Connecticut a few times, but I can tell you it's the land of CVS and Dunkin' Donuts, not 7-11 and Krispy Kreme country like here in the South.
All I'm saying is, people look kinda silly ticking off this long list of cool and exotic places they've "been," only to eventually reveal that the majority of said places were experienced via gas station, airport terminal, or car. It was fun to play, 'How many states have you been to?' in 4th grade and count up all the places you'd driven through on the way to Aunt Sally or Grandma Jones' house.
But as an adult? Just be honest. No one cares one way or the other how much you've traveled. And if you frame it truthfully, people will be interested in hearing your story, whether it's a weird cashier at a gas fill-up in middle of nowhere Arizona or a grand adventure in a distant land.
So what do you think? Have you noticed people doing this? Does it bother you? Or am I just crazy and splitting hairs? ;)
PS - the winner of my YA prize pack is Meredith! Congrats, Meredith! I will be emailing you!