Words by Julie Boyd | Photography by Julie Boyd
I first stumbled across Samantha Brown years ago while channel surfing on a lazy, Sunday afternoon. Her Passport to Europe show was airing an episode on Interlaken, Switzerland, and I was immediately drawn in by her lively personality, and ability to connect with the people she encountered. She seemed like a real person, and I could easily relate with that aspect of the show. So, I was excited to learn that she would be speaking at the Travel and Adventure show in Los Angeles this year, especially since Brian and I had already planned on attending.
The heart of Samantha’s presentation was about getting off the beaten path, and connecting with locals. While I have tried to do this on past trips, I still end up feeling a sense of obligation to see all the main tourist attractions. Plus, as an introvert, I struggle to find connections with people because I can’t help but feel like an outsider being judged as a tourist when I encounter them. However, Samantha had two key pieces of advice to help travelers get a sense of place in each location they visit, and my introverted self is anxious to start implementing them into my travel plans.
#1. Go for a walk.
Get out of the tourism centers, and go off the beaten path. Put away your phone, and just go for a walk. Samantha joked, “No maps! No apps!” I was really struck by the simplicity of this idea.
When Brian and I were in Europe, we would often search for a Starbucks, so we could pop in to use the free Wi-Fi and look up places on Yelp or Trip Advisor before making a decision about where to eat, or what place to visit next. We wasted so much time stressing out about choosing a good restaurant, which could have been better spent walking around exploring. Granted, after several questionable dining experiences at the beginning of the trip, we wanted to be sure we weren’t repeating the same mistakes.
In hindsight, it was part of the adventure of the trip. Taking a risk, going into the unknown – that’s where adventure lies. It doesn’t matter if it is randomly stumbling into a restaurant, or going on a hike in a remote area. If the food is bad, so what? It’s part of the adventure! So, who cares what so-and-so on Trip Advisor says; Go experience a new place for yourself!
#2. Create a Ritual.
Samantha spoke about how she goes to the same coffee shop every morning. This ritual gives her a chance to turn her brain off, and have time for herself. This is the one slice of her day when she doesn’t have to worry about where she’s going and what she’s doing. It also gives her a chance to connect with the local people as a repeat customer.
Creating a ritual is genius. Again, it takes away a chunk of stress from your day. I can’t tell you how many times Brian and I have done the: what do you want to do? – I don’t know, whatever you want to do… back-and-forth and wasted an hour deliberating (often while looking up things online). Sometimes, we feel pressure to go to new places each day, and never to eat at the same restaurant twice because there’s a city full of amazing restaurants! However, the idea of already having a plan for one part of your day is very appealing, and something I plan to implement more often in my future travels.
Thinking back, we unintentionally practiced this concept on our last visit to Monterey. There was a Starbucks across the street from out hotel, and instead of trying to eat at different breakfast places each day, we had a ritual of popping across the street for a quick cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich. It saved us time, money (thanks to a surplus of gift cards from my students for Christmas), and the stress of picking out a place. We were able to start our day of exploring right away, without any indecision. And as far as trying new places, we still had two more meals to take in the culinary delights of the seaside town (mmm…. clam chowder!).
Go for a walk, and create a ritual. Pretty simple. When I think about it, they seem to go hand-in-hand. Put your phone away, and go exploring. I am really looking forward to trying to do this more on our local adventures, and trips abroad.
One last note from Samantha’s talk that resonated with me was her parting words: “Why do we travel?” she asked, “Because nothing gives us a greater opportunity to discover ourselves and become better.”
With that I look to the future. My future travels with Brian, the adventures that we will go on together, and the opportunities to grow and become better people. But don’t get me wrong; we’re already pretty awesome. 😉