You’ve traveled to many popular destinations and as the number of tourists seem to increase annually you’ve now decided to go somewhere off the beaten track – somewhere different, unheard off, unusual or just down right outside of your comfort zone. Exploring a foreign city and discovering its hidden secrets is what makes travelling to off the beaten track destinations so appealing. It’s a chance for new experiences, a chance to develop, change, grow and learn more about yourself and a culture you haven’t yet heard of. Travelling to unheard of destinations opens us up to these unique experiences giving us a chance to discover something new, not just about the place we’re going to but about ourselves too. While the possibilities are endless, they can also be overwhelming. It’s a completely new city that you don’t know much about. So how do you explore, see and learn? Here is a list of ideas to help you jump-start your exploration of any off the beaten track destination.
SET A PERSONAL TASK
There is no better way to explore a new city than by making a mental note of all the things you want to achieve. These can be anything from tasting local dishes, exploring as many museums or bookstores as you can in one day to even making a connection with a local. Challenge yourself and see how many experiences you can knock of your list.
LEARN SOME HISTORY
Go through your guidebook, download a few travel APPS, read some blog posts or head on down to reliable old Google and learn as much as you can about the history and traditions of the city you’re visiting. If you’re not big on reading, plan on spending some time in the popular history museums or visit the tourist information centers. Use the information you gather to plan a personalized historical walking tour of areas you really want to see.
USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
There’s no better way to learn about a city than acting and living like the locals do. Ride the trains and catch buses. Get off at random unheard of destinations and explore a little. Not only will it be cheaper than regular taxi services but it will also give you chance to interact with the locals.
THEN DITCH THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
After spending some time on the usual public transport routes, get off and explore. Rent a bike and cycle around or just walk. Grab a map, look for the street index and pick a place nearby to wander around in.
HAVE A HOBBY
Constantly being on the go can sometimes mean that you’ll forget the exact details of what you did each day on that long-awaited vacation. Invest in a travel journal and jot down memorable moments and little experiences as you go. Five years from now, you’ll be happy you did as you look back at the paper place mats from Egypt or exotic candy wrappers from Spain. You’ll be able to recount and remember almost everything! If you’re a digital nomad then starting a blog or photography site might just help you recount and remember the little details you’ve experienced along the way. Write about the things you saw and how it made you feel. Capture images as you wander through a new city that will help you relive your experiences later on. Create a digital travel journal that you can later reflect on and share with your family and friends.
CONNECT WITH THE LOCALS
Take time to get to know the local people around you. It’s one of the best ways to learn about a new city, its people, food and culture. It will enrich your cultural experience and give you greater insights into the city you’re visiting. Try and have meaningful conversations and get to really know the person you’re talking to. Learn about what they enjoy doing in their spare time, where they like to have coffee and what their daily life is like.
ASK THE CONCIERGE
Talk to your hotel concierge and reception. They will often recommend some great local spots like restaurants, markets and bars. They should also be able to give you some guidance on when the shops open and how to get there.
TRY THE LOCAL FOOD
Skip the usual Burger King and McDonalds and try authentic local restaurants, street food carts and hole-in the-wall places for a true taste of local culture.
LIVE WITH A HOST FAMILY
The best way to learn about a new city’s culture and customs are to mingle and get to know the locals. There’s no better way to do this than by staying with a host family. Not only will you learn about family dynamics but you’ll also be able to pick up local everyday phrases and customs much faster.
Souvenirs are one of the best ways to take back a piece of the place you’ve visited. It’s a great way to have a keepsake of memories that will help you remember the experiences you’ve had in a new place. Buy some postcards, dried flowers, soaps or something long term like jewelry that you can keep with you.
LEARN SIMPLE PHRASES
Before travelling, learn some simple phrases that you can use and be sure to use them as often as you can when you arrive. Even a simple hello or thank you in a city’s native language will be appreciated by the locals and will help in breaking the ice.
Off the beaten path destinations are full of adventures and surprises. It might be scary at first but try these tips and even customize them to include your own style and you’ll be exploring like a pro in no time.