How to Explore a New City

by Dorothea Vasicek of

It’s that time again. You’ve been looking forward to this moment for quite some time; you are feeling a little apprehensive, trying not think of “worst case scenarios” while simultaneously trying to contain your thrill. You are in a new, unfamiliar place, and it is time to explore.
Speaking the language can make a huge difference when treading on new ground, but don’t let this factor make or break your experience. As a general rule, it is a good idea to know the basics  (think: “Please,” “Thank you,” “Can you help me,” and, “Excuse me, I do not speak ___”) but ultimately your attitude is the biggest factor that will determine if you have fun getting lost or feel desperately out of your element.
The following are a few tips that, when utilized, will ensure a fantastic adventure in a new place:
  • Give yourself time. Make sure that you give yourself ample time to get lost, without having to fret about deadlines and being anywhere specific at any certain time. When traveling it is always a good idea to be super flexible, and getting to know a new city is not different in that regard that you get to know the shaman of a province.
  • Don’t carry anything you wouldn’t mind losing. Take the fast cash you might need, a snack, some layers if necessary, maybe a notebook and pen, and your smartphone device – but don’t be flashy with your electronics. Also, don’t bring your passport unless you know you will need it for entrance into some tourist destination, this times is when is useful to have a good travel suitcase to store anything you don’t want to lose there.
  • Download a map on your device and take a screen shot. When you get directions over GoogleMaps the whole things downloads which is super convenient if you are without service in a foreign country, but take a screen shot just in case. Be aware of places that offer free wifi in case you need to utilize it, but once you have your map, challenge yourself to NOT look at it until a) you want to or b) you need to. Adventures are much more fun with way, but it provides peace of mind knowing you have a map.
  • Remember landmarks. Don’t be meandering mindlessly, look to see where you are and what stands out, especially if you choose to take a lot of twists and turns. Landmarks can be colorful street art, unique or gaudy shops, pillars and monuments, or anything that catches your eye as memorable. When you inevitably get turned around, this is a great way to remain confident in your sense of direction.
  • Don’t leave hungry. If you are going out for the day, it is more than likely that you will find a vendor or cafe to get some refreshment, but don’t leave on an empty stomach. In case you don’t find a place that suits you, or just for the simple fact of saving money, consider packing a snack to munch on as well.
  • Look like you know where you’re going. This is the number one way to avoid falling victim to those not-so-nice people who may want to take advantage of you being an outsider. Hand in hand with this is try and blend in as much as possible (or at least not stick out like a sore thumb) especially with dress choices.
  • Trust your gut. You have an intuition, use it. If you suddenly cross the street into a sketchy neighborhood, turn around and go the other way. Don’t be afraid to do whatever feels best in the moment.

dorotheaDorothea is an avid writer and lifelong travel enthusiast. Her insatiable appetite for all things international was sparked at the ripe age of 17 when she studied abroad in Morocco, and it hasn’t quit since. She’s spent the last two years living out of her suitcase, going from place to place and documenting her journey on her blog,