Traveling the world, learning languages, and immersing myself in new cultures.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

7 Tips For The Spontaneous Traveler

I've been asked by a few people to write about this topic, so, this is my first official "write what your readers ask for" article. Obviously, this is going to be gold. So, pull out your pen and notepad (or stylus and tablet) and take some notes!

Sure, it's nice to plan out a vacation and go on pre-arranged excursions and take part in pre-planned events, but not every trip will be so structured. Sometimes, you don't have time to plan or you will have a spontaneous, last-minute weekend trip and you'll have to be able to survive and have a great time.  Here are a few tips to make that spontaneous trip the best ever!

Free (tip-based) Walking Tours Are The Best

I have done free walking tours in over 30 cities in 20 different countries, and I can honestly say that every time I either learned something amazing, met someone interesting, or learned of a great place in the city that I would not have found otherwise. Plus, depending on how good your guide is, you can get a first class tour for a reasonable price!

Use Free Toilets When You See Them

I hate paying to use the toilet. Almost as much as I hate paying for air! (Don't laugh, it's going to happen one day). But, when you do stumble upon that free latrine, don't miss your opportunity. Even if you don't have to go, try! I realize that in the US paying for toilets isn't common, so I guess you could carelessly forego a free toilet, squandering your inherited entitlements. But, if you are traveling abroad, heed my warning, and "pee for free" whenever you can!

Take That Photo Now

We have the privilege of living in the Digital Age, and that means that we can take thousands of photos with ease. When you have the urge to take a photo, do it! You may not get another chance to do it, and if you do, then you'll just have two great photos and have to decide between them. It is much better to have to pick between photos, than to not have any to choose from.

Be Friendly With Other Travelers, You'll Probably See Them Again

 I can't tell you how many times I've been wandering around a new city and I kept running into the same people. You are all tourists, so you're liking going to be trying to see a lot of the same things. Being friendly could earn you some company, a huge perk when traveling solo. Also, these other tourists may have heard of sights, deals, cafés, or hidden gems that you don't even know about. Plus, when you travel to their hometown, you'll already have a friend!

Tim and Dougie in Glasgow
I met Dougie in Latvia, then when I visited his hometown of Glasgow, he showed me around

The Tourist Office Is Your Best Friend

This place has one purpose: to give you, the tourist, information. Use it! Visiting these offices at the beginning of your visit can answer a lot of questions you may have, and even answer some questions you didn't even know you had. Ask questions, prod for recommendations, grab some maps and brochures, and learn about where the free walking tours are.

Only Use A Map To Get Home

This is a spontaneous trip and you don't have any plans, so why use a map? The best hidden gems and undiscoverables are often found when you just wander. I'm not saying you can't use a map to try to find something specific, but don't pull out your map every 10 minutes to see where you're going. Part of the adventure is the journey! But, of course, when it's late and raining and you need to get back to your lodging, whip that bad boy out and get home safely.

Learn A Few Words In The Local Language

When traveling abroad, it has been my experience that speaking to the locals in their language will get you extra favor. A simple "please" or "thank you" goes a long way, especially when it is in the language they hold dearest. If you are good with languages, try to learn a phrase or sentence and you will become the life of the party, as the locals will ask you to repeat it hundreds of times and laugh at your weird accent. This is a great way to meet new friends and partake in cultural exchanges.

What tips do you have?

Do you agree or disagree with my list? What would you add? Leave a comment below!


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