I truly believe in staying in one place for a long time, weeks at least, in order to get a real feel for it. But, like many of you (I'm assuming...) it is the adrenaline of being new, being constantly surprised and stimulated, that drives me much of the time -- so I also want to be constantly on the move.
Some people call this the difference between the traveler and the tourist -- that travelers want to sink in, spend some time, learn the minutiae and everyday routines of a place, while tourists want the newness and excitement and sightseeing. I'm not sure how I feel about that -- there is such a smugness against tourists so much of the time, and that smugness just makes me so frustrated because it reeks of an elitist attitude. "Oh, well, I'm backpacking in Malaysia for four months and staying with a local family. But a few days in Paris is cool, I guess." Blech.
Frankly, anyone pretending even months of living somewhere will make them an expert on somewhere is kidding themselves. Human culture and relationships are way more complex than that. This can be frustrating to realize, because it appears (follow me here), short of BEING from a culture, one can never understand it. And since we all have our own cultures that we are a part of, and do understand, why then do we feel compelled to pick up and move to experience someone else's?
And yes, I have just circuitously disproved the validity of travel. What can I say, I enjoy logical conundrums.
What do you think? Do we gain more insight when we stay in a place longer? Do you ever get discouraged by the "locked-out" feeling of being foreign?