By: Krystal Vera
If you’re off to see the Wizard, you’re off to Emerald City. Dorothy and her companions traveled to Emerald City along the ever famous yellow-brick road and still only managed to see one thing – the Wizard. Judging by the view from the poppy fields, there was quite a bit to see! Dorothy’s group made the same mistake many first-time travelers do; they visited a well-known city and went straight to the glitzy attraction while ignoring the allure of the rest of the city. Here are some pointers on how to pay attention to the little things in big cities, all while staying off the beaten path.
Learn the Language
The first step to completely immersing yourself into a place you’ve never been before is to familiarize yourself with the language. Get comfortable with some helpful phrases such as asking where the bathroom is or specific ways to ask for directions. Knowing the basics in any language will help you navigate wherever you are, in many circumstances and locals are always appreciative when visitors attempt to learn their language. Apps like Duolingo help both amateur and professional travelers learn plenty before landing. Emily Luxton, founder of the travel blog Emily Luxton Travels, uses the app herself and advises to “try to talk as much as you can using the language; even if you’re struggling people will appreciate the effort and go easy on you!” Plus, your new found talent is something to show off once you get back home.
Get lost. Literally.
There is no better way to lose yourself in a city than by literally getting lost. Even if you start in a well-known location and veer off in a random direction, you’ll find little treasures you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Again, make sure you know a bit of the language beforehand so you can find your way home. Say you’re trying to make your way to your next point of interest on a trip and somehow, someway, you get lost. It happens. Little did you know that you would find a small cafe or quaint bistro to stop in for a quick lunch before finding your way back to the right path. Finding those special places where such organic memories are formed can’t be planned. Don’t be scared to get lost!
Walk. A lot.
Walking and getting lost go hand in hand with each other. Sure, you can get lost by taking a bus or a train, but the best way is to keep walking in those random directions. Even if you’re the kind of person who makes an itinerary before every trip, don’t plan out the exact route to get to each point of interest. Have more time than you planned after lunch? Pick a random direction and get to steppin’! Off to those quaint finds and unique Instagram photos!
Google/Ask the locals
Another reason why knowing the language is going to be extremely helpful. Since the beginning of mankind, the best way to know or hear about anything was through word-of-mouth. Although technology demands our attention more than other people these days, this still holds truth. By asking a passing stranger where the best place to eat or see a show, you’ll become completely immersed into the true life of the city you decide to visit. Nobody knows the city better than the people who live in it.
Keep it random
You’ve seen the stand full of brochures in the hotel lobby, the information booth when you get off the plane or main train station. They’re there for a reason. Grab them. Take one of each and when you get to your hotel, hostel or AirBnB flat, lay them out on a table. Pick out the ones that sound the most interesting and give them a shuffle. The first one you pick; you have to do. No excuses! This will help you discover attractions people may otherwise ignore simply because we’re all so used to the brochure stand never having anything interesting. Still, you should try. You never know what you will discover! Megan Singleton, founder of Blogger at Large: Travel with Megan Singleton and former Twipper of the Week, says that in her spare time she visits “a local café or wine bar and sit(s) down and people watch. I often find the best travel stories are the ones that come out of just sitting, chatting to strangers and watching.”
By sticking to these guidelines you will be able to enhance the quality of your trip. Instead of saying “I went to Paris and I saw the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Arc de Triumph.” You’ll be able to say “I went to Paris and I found this cute little café that served the best coffee and there was this awesome theater that showed old movies for 5 euro a person!” Your adventures will become that much better simply because you took the road less traveled by.