Although I love the freedom of travelling solo, it’s not always easy. It’s tempting to stay safely in the comfort zone of your accommodation and not explore the local area as you might have thought you would when planning your trip.
Here are a few things that I try and do to ease myself out and about at a new destination:
This is a great thing to do in so many ways. For the recipient it is always a surprise to get a postcard from a far-flung destination and when you return home and visit friends and family it’s so lovely to get a reminder of your travels. Take your time to find nice postcards so that you have to visit more than one shop and enjoy the process of browsing around, exploring the streets on a mission to find the ideal postcard.
The second part to this tip is to find a post office to buy your stamps. Try out some basic language skills (or detailed sign language) and enjoy sticking your stamps on and posting them to their destinations.
If you want to take your time your can add a third part to this – buy the postcards and stamps, write them at your leisure and then challenge yourself to find the most obscure post box in the town.
Coffee/café/caffee – this is a universal language and by taking a while to sit and familiarize yourself with what the locals do, you can try different things next time. Enjoy sitting in a shady square, by the side of the road or in a cosy café.
Get used to listening to the language being spoken and notice the differences between how things would happen at home. For me this is usually a much calmer affair. People stopping to take the time to sit and drink rather than grabbing a takeout and drinking on the go.
You can do this at home or away and this is a good activity when drinking coffee (as above). Sit a while and watch. Take in the language, the mannerisms, the fashion as well as the sights and smells of your new location. Take yourself a block or two off the main tourist drags and see how things change. Offer a smile and maybe even start a conversation.
This won’t be for everybody, but if you like a little bit of activity then lace up your running shoes and head out for a morning or evening jog. There is a community of runners in nearly every place I’ve been to and you can choose whether to go where the locals go – check out any parks, rivers or promenades – or whether to use it to explore the city before the tourists have finished thinking about breakfast.
If you go early, although the attractions might not be open, you can usually get a people-free view of the outside so don’t forget your camera.
I’m a morning runner and really like seeing the city wake up. Getting a feel for morning routines and seeing things more in their natural state.
If you’re staying in a big city then this can be essential for getting around. Most ticket machines have English options so it’s easy to buy a ticket – figure out if it’s better value to buy just one, or to buy multiple tickets that will be valid for your stay.
You may also consider taking a day trip outside the city and making your own way there on public transport can be an adventure in itself before you even get to your destination.
Parque del laberint, Barcelona. A little off the beaten track
Seek out the different
Rather than following the guidebooks, I like to search the internet for “unusual things to do in…” this provides some different options to the norm and gives an alternative if you are looking for a quiet day away from the crowds.
Whether you choose one of these things to kick start your trip, or have your own strategies, the thing to do is to get out there and enjoy.