Exploring a city
Do you think this post is about exploring a foreign city when you travel? Think again. I want to get you lost. If you get lost you grow. Here is how.
One of my favorite things is to go to a city in a foreign country where I do not speak the language and walk around with no map. Not just go there, but try to get lost. I have traveled to countless countries and cities and I have never gotten in real trouble. I have had many adventures and misadventures though. Therefore, I think the best way to explore a city is to go there and walk around and absorb it from a sensory level.
Why I do not use a city guide-book
The reason I developed the habit on exploring a city without any guidebook is because before the trip I am usually so involved with the logistics of planning and packing of that I have no time to read the important sites to see. Further, when I’m traveling to the location I am usually a bit stressed out and more focused on just getting from point A to point B.
Therefore, even if I have bought a guidebook I rarely read it. I think the best value of using a guidebook is reading it on the return trip or when you are home. This way you’re more relaxed and can relay of your trip and say, yes I was here. However in my opinion the best part of traveling is the adventure and discovering something on your own rather than relieving somebody else’s experience.
I have found many guidebooks giving opinions and advice about are totally incorrect. They might review a place to go and it turns out opposite of my opinion. Further it is a well-known fact that many of the writers of the guidebooks just recycle information and have never been to the actual city themselves. This is shocking but true.
A better strategy is simply to go to the city and if you want something written of a small journal and write your own impressions about what you see. The reality is you’ll get more there any drive facts and figures and dates that might be found in a city information book.
Another thing that is all cities have some sort of tourist information and free literature. I guess I am cheap.
If you really want to learn more after you are done getting lost in a foreign city, most metropolitan areas have free walking tours in English. Why pay for a guide-book or even a guide when you can do this for free.
What about a foreign language phrase book while traveling? I teach and learn languages and find phrase books useless. Why? The phrases in the books are fine at a for ordering something a cafe (most waiters speak English of course), but if asked a question, which you always are, you will be lost. Better is to learn about 200 verbs in a foreign language and you will have some level of communication as nouns are often similar.
Exploring a town with a map
Don’t you think it is more interesting to engage your senses and use latent parts of your brain by trying to navigate without a map? I rarely use one, I do not have a cell phone and certainly not a GPS. Why do you need all those things to take away the pleasure of exploration on your intuition?
If you want to take a map, sure, take one. I have a passion for maps, but that is to look at when I am at home, not on the road. You can print them out form the Internet and put it in my pack just in case.
What if you get lost? Who do you ask?
I ask college age girls. If I speak the language old ladies. The first group is the most likely to speak English and the second (and first group) is the most trustworthy and friendly. If you ask some middle age guy, he might not like you because you are a foreigner and give you wrong directions. This has been my personal experience. I guess I am partial towards the fairer gender.
Good shoes are the most important part of travel
Unless you can not walk, I would not take a cab. I think trams and buses are also only if you really need to. I can think of very few cities you can not walk from top to bottom. If you are only hitting the tourist areas, that is one thing, but the best parts of a city are those you discover on foot or by accident.
The one thing I spend money on is good walking shoes. I buy running shoes as they are the only things that really work for the amount of distance I cover. I do not mind spending over 150 dollars on a pair. If you want to know more about what to pack for a trip read my post on what to pack for a trip.
Oh by the way, if you walk a foreign city you can enjoy more of the food as you will burn more calories. Since I moved to Europe I do not work out and in great shape. My legs are toned and I feel great. If I was not an explorer I think I would be over weight like my friends back home. I was heading in that direction.
What is the point of exploring a city?
If you have made it this far I think you understand my point. I am trying to get you to get lost. I am trying to encourage you to step outside your boundaries when you travel. I did and it eventually changed my life. I moved to Europe . Taking small risks in life lead to you taking bigger risks. You will learn you can do anything you put your mind to.
I found that travel is one way to start stepping out of your comfort zones and build your self-confidence. If you have any questions about living off the beaten path or at least travelling there, please ask. I have a lot of experience with travel and live as an expat with dual citizenship and a few languages. I used to be an accountant. No matter what your life situation, you can change it and live your dream. I have traveled to Asia, South America, Africa, Europe and North America and been lost many times. However, those were always the best days.