Fresh off the plane and feeling stumped? Here’s 5 activities you can do virtually anywhere:
- Chat with a local – If you’re in a city, this shouldn’t be too hard to manage. Go to a bar that gives you good vibes, grab a drink and have a chinwag with whoever’s up for it (try the bartender). Be respectful, good natured and open minded, and you’re likely to extract all the info you need in due course.
- Respectfully visit a place of worship – An excellent way to learn about a place. Do your research and make an informed decision about how appropriate it is for you to attend, and if there’s a dress or behaviour code you’d do well to adhere to.
- Go food shopping – Even the most mundane-looking supermarket can be fascinating. Why are there bottles of wine next to the cooking oil? How can so many pickled fish fit in one jar? And what on earth is a cloudberry?
- Get a haircut – A great little hack for securing some one-on-one time with a local. Even if you don’t speak the same language, it’s sure to be interesting – and not just in terms of the new look you walk out with.
- Find the nature – Whether it’s a majestic forest trail or a suburban park, do your darndest to find the least built-up area in any given place. In some places, this will be all too straightforward, but in others, you may need to hunt around.
Travel souvenirs can be your best OR worst purchases ever. Here’s 5 things to buy that you won’t regret.
- T-shirt from a place or event that spoke to you – You see an awesome band that you’d never heard of, and have beers with them – buy their shirt. You attend a unicycling festival in Portugal – buy the shirt. You fall in love with a craft brewery – buy the shirt. As long as someone screen printed it in their backyard, just buy the danged shirt.
- Item from local artist – If you’re genuinely feeling it, that is. Don’t buy that hand-tooled leather hip flask holster just because it seems to be the thing to do. Buy it because you love it and know you won’t find anything like it back home.
- Weird non-perishable consumable – You know – the type of thing that your friends won’t believe is real unless you prove it. Keep it small, cheap and declare it at customs. Think Liquorice shaped like mobile phones, beer brewed to the golden ratio, wasabi chewing gum, a packet or three of cigarettes…Or just take a photo.
- A magazine – As in, one that’s different to what you’d get back home. These can be good for language practice, because they’re typically more conversational and up on the latest lingo than books are.
- Nothing – Think souvenirs are for suckers? Good for you! Save your dollars for trying new foods, seeing shows, catching the train out to that remote area.
Having a chinwag with a local is key in learning how to get the most out of a place. Here are 5 questions to ask locals.
- What’s your favourite thing about [place]? – Maybe it’s pink lights on the river on a cloudless night. Maybe it’s the children singing in the cathedral. Maybe it’s that it’s cheap. Maybe there’s nothing going for the place whatsoever. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. See things differently!
- What’s on tonight? – This is the best way to explore the true character of a city’s nightlife (it may not work so well in less populated places, but you never know). Ask someone who looks like the kind of person you’d want to spend an evening with.
- Where’s the best place to eat? – Hint: it’s probably not the flashy, overpriced restaurant by the water. Then again, maybe it is! Who knows? Locals do, that’s who.
- What’s the best day trip? – What if you left town having missed the enchanting walk to that waterfall, the climb to that hilltop monastery, the bus ride out to the village that never moved on from the 70s? Well, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but you might kick yourself a little.
- Can you teach me a word/phrase I won’t find in my phrase book? – Invariably, the answer will be something you won’t want to recount to your grandmother. Become initiated into the quirks of the local language… just be careful who you repeat it to!
Never say never, our favourite word is always ‘yes’. the smart traveller embraces adventure. Here’s 5 things way to make your trip memorable.
- Leave the hotel! – There’s a time and a place to stay at the hotel and enjoy the pool. An adventure trip is not one of them, unless your hotel is run by AI robots, or is in an Antarctic cave or something. Get amongst it!
- Be Respectful – Wherever you are, remember that you’re a visitor. Whether it’s home to 20 million humans or a few reindeer, acknowledge that the place you’re temporarily passing through has its own daily life and culture. Respect that.
- Live dangerously – Skydiving? Sure. Rain-forest trekking? Do it. Driving in Paris? If you’re really keen. Just be informed, think it through and don’t do anything that don’t feel right. If you wouldn’t ask your favourite sibling to do it, perhaps give it a miss.
- Avoid the familiar – Keeping the above in mind, it pays to expand your horizons. Don’t hesitate to attend that festival, visit that temple, try that weird locally brewed spirit, introduce yourself to those grandmothers who seem to gather on the corner each morning.
- Forget the camera – If you have god-given photography skills, go nuts. But if you’re snapping away just because everyone else is, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You won’t be able to capture the majesty of that mountain, so why bother trying? Just drink it in through your eye-holes.
Long stopovers, overland travel, or a night in – Here’s our Top 5 ways to entertain yourself, sans internet.
- A rubix cube. Not for everyone, but these can be great if you need something to take your mind off a tedious situation, especially if you’re tight for space. Palm it off on a fellow traveller when you’re done, so they too can enjoy the infuriation.
- Podcasts. Learn about a fascinating new topic, or just listen to some dudes waxing lyrical about nothing so you can pretend you have company. (Download a supply of episodes while you’re on wifi, like at an airport.)
- Working out. Drop and give me 60 seconds of plank and, er… whatever else you can come up with. Hey, what else do you have to do that won’t cost you a cent? Works best in a hotel or hostel room – I’d give it a miss at the airport, myself.
Journaling. Take some time to reflect on your adventures. What spoke to you? What freaked you out? What are you looking forward to? Head down this path far enough and you might end up with a letter to your grandma into the bargain.
- Meditation. Never done it before? Now’s the perfect time to learn. Not only does it alleviate boredom, it’ll help you deal gracefully with all manner of on-the-road inconveniences. Get motivated by listening to a podcast on the subject.
Sure, the Mona Lisa is all that. So is the Taj Mahal. But what not check out some lesser known hotspots? Try one of these on for size.
- A remarkable bridge. Pick one and see how much you can find out about it. Extra points if you get into a conversation about the engineer’s earlier works.
- A lowkey museum. You know the one: that warehouse of old anchor winches you glimpsed on the way in from the airport. Extra points if you buy a souvenir magnet.
- An island that you can only get to by boat. Extra points if you can find a local who’ll row you out there in exchange for lunch (be safe, of course).
- A weird statue. Every city has at least one; it’s just a matter of finding it. Extra points if it portrays something that can be construed as rude.
- A class or meeting about something mundane, just to find out what you have in common – or not – with your fellow worldmates. Extra points if you don’t understand a word of it.