looking for something?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

GUEST BLOGGER: Julia Domenicucci "How To Properly Get Lost While Traveling"

Hi guys! A special thanks goes out to Julia who is guest blogging while I am in Europe! Below is something that is very important to me when I travel, so I hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out her blog!

I still remember how shocked I was when my teacher told us to get lost one afternoon in Prague. Fifty high school students were on a ten day whirlwind tour of European cities, and up until then each day had been booked solid: city tour, museum, lunch, museum, museum, museum, dinner, historical site, hotel, sleep. But on that day in Prague we had four hours until dinner and nothing scheduled. My teacher handed out maps of the city to the students. I still thought he was kidding.

"What if we really do get lost?" I couldn't help but wonder.

"That's the point," he said.

At the time I was quite nervous, even though I set off with three of my good friends, maps firmly in hand. We initially had a plan, so make it to the famed Charles Bridge, but we got hopelessly lost even though we referred to maps every few feet. It was some of the most fun I had all trip. We found a local farmer's market where absolutely no one was speaking English; I met a man selling his photography who told me that "it doesn't matter what type of camera you use, only what is in your heart"; there were lots of laughs when we realized Prague had two streets with the same name, and we had been in an entirely different part of the city then we initially thought.

Since that afternoon, I make an effort to literally get lost in every city I visit. Setting aside some time to just wander leads to the best discoveries--and the best stories! You can do this across the ocean or one state over; the only real requirement is that you are unfamiliar with the location. There are, however, some things you should keep in mind to have the most safe and fun experience.

1. Get a map. Even in the age of smartphones, a physical map is invaluable. Phones can die, or have no service, or cost way too much when abroad. On a map you can mark where you are, where you might want to end up, and things you discover along your travels. I like to use my maps to write down the names and locations of local cafes and stores--you never know if you may want to find them again, or recommend them to friends!

2. Do a little research. It is best to know about any unsafe neighborhoods and learn where their boundaries are. I neglected to do this when visiting Den Haag in the Netherlands, and my friend and I wandered into a decrepit and creepy part of town. (On the plus side, we knew how to avoid it afterwards!) If you know you want to visit a particular church or museum or location, research will of course help you find it. Chart a course to that spot and then wander the surrounding area so you can both see the main attractions and make your own discoveries.

3. Set a time limit. Exhaustion is a very real problem when you are walking aimlessly around cities. By setting a time limit, you can decide when to return to familiar territory, hopefully avoiding the onset of hunger, frustration, and stress. You can also try walking outward from one location like spokes on a wheel--walk five or ten minutes out, then return to where you started and head off for the same length of time down a different street. Repeat until you run out of streets!

4. Bring snacks & friends. Snacks will keep you exploring for longer, preventing worries about where the nearest place to eat is. In Den Haag again (I apparently made a lot of mistakes on that trip!), my friend and I walked for miles to get to one specific park. It was located in a very residential area without many cafes, and none that were open. Even though the area was beautiful, our growling stomachs were definitely distracting. As for friends, it's both more safe and more fun to explore with people you care about. Everyone will be jealous of the time you happened upon a winter festival in Berlin and all six of you went tubing down the giant, man-made, snowy hill at once (true story, and probably not very safe!).

5. Talk to anyone and everyone. This is the number one best thing to do when traveling! Most of my favorite stories come from when I decided to talk to local people. In Florence, I met a leather worker's wife, and she and I talked for a half hour about our respective cats. In the small Italian town of Monterosso, a local shopkeeper let us try everything in his shop and then directed us to an unassuming restaurant down the road, which turned out the be the best meal I ate that trip. While visiting the London countryside about six years ago, I stayed in a guest house that was a former post office and hundreds of years old; the owners showed us the ceiling in the attic, where you could see the original thatch roof from the time the house was built.

Normally, the idea of getting lost has a negative connotation, but when it comes to travel getting lost is the ideal! Do you have any stories from wandering through cities?

post signature

No comments:

Post a Comment