I recently attended the San Diego Travel and Adventure Show, where I was inundated with travel possibilities. I had my list of places I plan to go to (Nepal, Catalina, Palm Springs) but other destations beckoned, too. The problem for a travel writer is that travel is so addictive, you’re always planning your next trip.
I digress. One of the speakers was Samantha Brown, a 15-year travel veteran who has had several of her onw travel shows. Now, last year at the show, I was a bit disappointed when my travel icon, Rick Steves, did little more than pump his line of Italian tours. But Samantha? She had the gems, and they lined up with my own travel philosophy. She shared her two pillars of better travel.
1. Go for a Walk
“Wander and go where the day takes you.”
Rather than packing your scheduled tight with monument after museum, Sam (can I call you Sam, Sam?) suggests simply walking around a new city. This helps you figure out: who are the people? what are they like? It also helps you get away from the touristy, overpriced, bad quality restaurants and shops. She says even a block off of a major shopping thoroughfare, like Champs-Elysees in Paris or Las Ramblas in Barcelona, will net you some pretty interesting local places to explore.
I can do that. I used to be guilty of trying to “see all the sights.” In fact, when Tirrell and I first went to Europe as boyfriend/girlfriend, I for some reason decided we needed to visit all the noteworthies’ homes in London, including Keats and Freud. Neither of whom I gave a crap about. He still gives me grief about it. Neither of us enjoyed those tours, and had much more fun putting grass on one another’s heads in a park (oh, youth.).
Now, I’ve calmed down a bit in my assertiveness while traveling and can enjoy walking through a city and getting to know its vibe. That often helps with Samantha’s second pillar.
2. Create a Ritual
Samantha says having a routine, which might be having coffee at the same restaurant every morning, taking time to center yourself with a daily meditation, or a regular jog, can help you “feel the ebb and flow of a place.”
I agree. I tend to scope out a restaurant or cafe early in a trip (especially the monthlong ones) and make that our touchstone. There, we can get to know a few faces and have a soft place to land after a day of walking (see #1). In Paris, it was Abdel’s kebab shop. It was there that we sought refuge from the unusually frigid and snowy winter in the 18th Arrondissemente, where we never had to stress over the decision of what to eat (kebabs with fries on top, please), and we always had someone to practice French with.
In Saorge it was La Petite Epicerie (photo above), where we’d stop for a coffee, a rose, or to pick up groceries.
These two pillars are extremely simple to apply to travel, and I wish more people who go on those whirlwind 18-cities-in-10-days would heed them. Until then, I’ll take slow travel. (and that’s a topic for another article).