Experiencing a city is a challenge. Especially when time is short. So why put the pressure on yourself? Why feel the need to be the tourist who sees all historical sites, the instagram-worthy modern coffee shops, the infamous restaurants, and the classic tours.
Forgetting to sit still on a trip can make it all a blur. Kind of like your wedding day. Unless you stop and breathe it in, you will likely say “I can barely remember anything! Still the best day of my life!” Which in the long run isn’t a bad answer, but personally, I LOVE remembering the details, the random excursions off trail. I hope on my wedding day, I can have moment memories that build the day, not flashes of events.
So when you take a weekend, a week trip, or longer, I challenge you to pick and choose what is most important to you. Do you ACTUALLY want to see _____ or do you just want a photo in front of it. Often, I find myself saying “i don’t know, i feel like i’m SUPPOSE to go there cause like I’m HERE?” When in England, I stayed in a northern city with close friends. London is a 5 hour drive from their home. I spent a bit of time asking myself if I should ask to go. I mean, I was in England (right!?) , and 5 hours isn’t even that far! I opted not, because I knew I would MUCH rather spend hours in their home, drinking tea, exploring their stomping grounds. I would much rather make memories laughing while attempting golf, getting brunch down the street, and going to a high tea room in an old hall. Don’t get me wrong, London would be amazing, but this trip, it was just me. I began to lose the sense of urgency to SEE IT ALL. I plan to go back. I’ve been twice in the same calendar year, so why try to see it all and not take a breather? I hope I can continue to travel often in my lifetime, and I expect I will go back to England with a friend or friends one day who will want to take London on!
There is something so special about not using a map after a few days in a city. I spent around 6 days in Lyon, France this April. I had a European phone plan with quite a bit of data left, so I face timed some friends while around the city. After the first two days, I had gotten to know the area, the short cuts to the rivers, my favorite bridge or two to cross, my favorite spot to sit and read. It was so exciting to virtually tour my best friend around a city that now felt like a new comfortable home.
So my top “planning” tips to visiting a new city:
- Instead of booking a trip with the intention to see as many cities in 3 weeks that you can, consider taking on 2 cities and a town maybe. Spend a longer time in one place to truly experience the culture, the set up of the city, the food, and of course, the people!
2. Prioritize your MUST see tourist attractions, and eliminate the ones that you are going to simply out of obligation. Its YOUR trip, right?
3. Consider wandering around the city without a map (also have a note of your address… and maybe a off-line map app to get home. haha)
4. Read and write where you want to – on a step, on the ground, by water where ever you just want to be. Don’t feel guilty for that time. Allowing yourself to stop and take in your experiences will let them sink and hold. Take note of the little things. Weather, smells, sounds, people you see.
I have loved the trips I remember LIVING in the city, not simply touring it. Take the challenge, give yourself elbow room on your next trip.
Get lost in the city, try some crappy coffee you spent a little too much on, dangle your legs over a river, breath in the fresh air, and let the city settle in your memory.
Sunday afternoon after church exploring the local market for a smoothie.
One of my favorite nights in Lyon. I had eyed a spot on this one bridge a few days in a row. The weather was perfect. I just scooped myself up there and read my travel journal. The bustling city around me while I wrote in more memories I made that day.
Taking an evening off exploring and doing some well needed Friends night. Everything is so new and sometimes just a lot, its nice to have something familiar like netflix.
Take selfies. Haha you won’t regret it. Its the solo-travel way.