Summer is here and, by all reports, millions of people will be taking big trips in the next two months after several years of pandemic restrictions. I will not be joining them, mostly because I’m not a fan of summer travel, as explained in a previous post.
However, I am already planning some fall trips and one or two for next year. More to say about that in future posts.
And, as I consider both those upcoming experiences, and others from the past, I thought I would toss out a few suggestions that have made my travel more meaningful and that might make your trips a little better.
Now, I’m certainly no travel expert, and my reasons for visiting someplace new may (and probably will) differ from yours.
Most often I’m traveling with a photographer’s eye, always looking for views and experiences that go beyond those found in the usual guidebooks. For example, when visiting the famous museum, by all means view the important artifacts. But also notice the people and objects around, behind, and above you.
With those caveats in mind, here are my five suggestions for getting the most out of any city or town you might visit, with a bonus, off-the-wall idea for international destinations.
1. Get on the local hop-on, hop-off bus. These things are about as touristy as you get, but they’re also a great way to get a relatively low-cost overview of a city. They’re also a great activity for part of your first day when you might be jet lagged. Along the way, I like to take notes about locations and sights that I might want explore and photograph in more detail later.
2. Walk as much as possible. Explore the neighborhoods, wander down interesting streets, look up, peek around corners. On foot you’ll see far more than if you’re riding around in a car, especially if you’re doing the driving. You always need to be cautious when wandering in unfamiliar locations, of course, but you learn so much more about local life by seeing it up close.
3. When not walking, use public transportation. Not only are subways and busses a much more efficient way to get around most cities, they also offer another close-up view of people and places. Do some research ahead of your trip to learn how to use the transit system, where the various lines go, and maybe even buy tickets.
4. Wander through a local supermarket. You can learn a lot about life in that area from seeing what is available for the average person to purchase, as opposed to stores that cater mostly to tourists. Produce and fresh markets are also a lot of fun and a great way to pick up the elements for a picnic lunch. A few chunks of cheese, a fresh-baked roll, and some local fruit enjoyed in a nearby park makes for a memorable meal.
5. Go to the highest point you can legally access. Whether it’s a church tower, rooftop bar, one of those observation wheels that seem to pop-up everywhere, or just a hill, you’ll observe elements from a high point that you might miss at street level. And you’ll get some great photos as well.
Finally, one tip for when you travel outside the US: Go to a McDonald’s.
No, I’m not kidding. Besides taking advantage of the free wifi (in many places), it’s fun to see local differences in the generic American fast-food menu. For a treat, try something you’ve never seen at your local McDonald’s. Once I even found a good antipasto bar at a McD’s in Rome, so don’t automatically dismiss the food.
Anyway, just some ideas to consider for any upcoming travel you might be planning. Wherever you’re headed this summer, I wish you nothing but wonderful experiences.
The photo is one of my favorite examples of finding a high point. That’s London (2008) as seen from the Royal Observatory which sits on a hill high above Greenwich. A very different view of the city than most tourists get.