As a type-A person who usually thrives on planning things, I’ve learned to take this urge from a 10, down to a 3 thanks to my crazy and completely unplanned travel experiences.
The first time I began to appreciate the wonders of just winging it was when I was 19 in Barcelona. Damon and I thought it would be a great idea to jump on a 7 euro RyanAir flight from Paris to Barca that would arrive at 12AM without booking a place to sleep. Who wanted to pay 20 euros for a hostel? Not us, so we did what backpackers do; plan to sleep on the beach. At the time, it seemed like the greatest idea we’d ever had… but then we realized it was damn cold by the beach at night. Long-story short, we ended up sleeping on a bench until 6:30AM. This was not only one of the most memorable travel experiences I’ve had thus far, but one of least planned; there’s even video evidence. Basically, the moments where you surrender to the possibility of adventure is the moment you start living.
Follow these steps to get the most out of your itinerary-less trips:
don’t take a guidebook
Of course you should know the facts/geography/general information about where you’re going, but don’t get research crazy. Often times when people invest in guidebooks for their trips, they tend to stress themselves out because if they miss ONE out of the 20 top things to do on their trip, they feel like they haven’t “fully experienced” the location. There’s a book that I’ve been reading called “The Paradox of Choice,” and it’s all about how more choices actually makes society miserable because it gives us more chances of feeling like we “didn’t get the most bang for our buck.” Don’t try to compare your trip with that of a guidebook. Each time you travel, it shouldn’t be about checklists, it should be about unique moments (that can’t be planned with guidebooks).
One of the reasons why I love learning new languages isn’t just to brag, cause let’s be honest, I barely even speak English dese days; it’s all about speaking to locals. When Damon and I first arrived in Mexico last year, we didn’t exchange money, Google map, or research anything. We got off the plane and started asking questions in Spanish. After a week of living with the locals, we already knew exactly where to go to find the stuff that really mattered; like a $5 liter of Cuba Libre on Calle 10.
buy a disposable camera
If you want to practice this “no itinerary” swag and fully capture these unique moments, buy yourself a disposable camera and only snap pictures of things that really matter. With iPhones and all the other thinger-ma-jiggers that are glued to our hands, it’s impossible to capture a single moment without it being edited or filtered. Put the Lo-Fi away and get a little 90s with 27 authentic and unchanged photos.
take side streets
Avoid the Broadways of wherever you’re visiting, nothing but “I’m in Cancun B*tch” T-shirts can come of that. Take the tiny, cobble stone streets that ooze new discoveries. Obviously be safe with this one and don’t walk into dark alleys… that’s how you get mugged. Feel out your environment and make wise choices ya’ll.
hop on a bus or metro and get off at a random stop
Even in your home city, you should be able to find an adventure by getting off at a random stop on the bus or metro. There’s so much to a place than just eating, working, and sleeping; sometimes we forget when we’re in our bubble of monotony and routine. While traveling, you should purposely try to lose yourself. Deep.
visit restaurants that aren’t chains
This one is a toughy now-a-days in the US. As tempting as a McBaguette sounds, hold off on your hunger for a few more minutes until you find something more authentic. We’ve starved ourselves (probably also not the best idea) because we refused to go to another McDonalds in Barcelona. The plus to this is that when we finally got local food, we were so hungry that it tasted magical. Find a good balance and also ask the locals where they eat because odds are they’ll refer you to cheaper and better tasting food.
find outdoor markets
Similar with restaurants, I despise shopping in franchise stores; I feel so “pack-muleish.” I realized that after growing up in a suburban town where the only thing to do for fun was strolling the mall, I’m almost physically allergic to excessive consumerism. When I’m traveling, the only time you’ll see me shopping is if it’s in an outdoor market with locally made garments where you can only pay ca$h money.
go by foot
The best travelers will always agree that the ideal way to see a city is by foot. Pack your sweat proof socks and comfy sneaks and hit the road with your feet! There are several pros to walking a town: 1) you’ll burn off all of the food you’ll have scarfed down, and 2) you’ll be able to slowly see the parts of the destination that you’d easily miss in a massive tour bus.
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