Everyone finds joy in different things. If I have learned one thing while traveling, it is the importance of submersing yourself in things you really enjoy while in these incredible places. For example: one may find most joy in finding the best places to go out at night while another may do endless hours of research until she finds the perfect cafe where she can sit with a glass of red and read. Just saying.
Now that I am pretty much done with my traveling I have been reflecting and dreaming of going back right away. Through this reflection, I happen to have stumbled upon a pleasant trend. It is one that I directly correlate with why I had such an incredible and different experience in each and every city I visited. I now realize I always did these three things and I am convinced they are why I had the time of my life.
I always made a list of all of the big sights. No matter how boring/pointless/out of the way they may have been, I could not leave a place with out at least having a glance. This is all to prevent the conversation I know I will one day have and have nightmares about.
“OMG! You went to Rome? Did you go to …”
And there I am standing droopy eyed with my mouth curled down. A projector of buildings, sights, statues and monuments flipping through my head; yet that one is missing. No… I was in Rome and I did not see that possibly very uninteresting thing, but since you saw it and mentioned it, I will forever feel left out. I think thats what some people would consider fear of missing out, which I hate to admittedly fall victim to, but here I am.
I researched all of the local restaurants and cafes. There is absolutely nothing worse than falling in to the tourist trap. You are tired and hungry. You are living on a budget, but if you do not eat at that very moment the tantrum you will throw will not be pretty. So what do you do? You give in and listen to the wolf like hostesses standing outside of the sub par restaurants practically taking your hand and pulling you in. Thirty minutes later you wake up from your hunger black out with a stomach full of food comparable to TGI Friday’s that cost you a whopping 40 dollars. If only you had done a little bit of research, you would have known that on the street right behind you lies an adorable family owned pizzeria that serves wood fire heaven on a platter. Having a note of a couple cafes and restaurants in different parts of the city saved my life more than once. The food is ALWAYS better and the atmosphere and culture is something you just can not re-create.
This one is my favorite. I always looked up charity, thrift and antique stores in the area. You never know what kind of gem you may find. Going to these places gives such an incredible insight not only on the style of the place you are visiting, but also gives a unique history lesson. Many times, the shop owner has gone out and hand picked these items and has a detailed story for each of them. I could spend a life time listening to the line of history that lies behind a dainty little locket. I have spent hours staring at these pieces marveling over their history. Who did you belong to? Where have you been? How can I shift my luggage to make just one more thing fit? Who will hold you next? Why did they decide to search for this hidden store that holds you safely inside? I am thinking this all while standing alone in a thrift store that is below a pub on a back road in Budapest.
I never want to leave a place I travel to feeling like I have missed something. Thankfully, I never have and I attribute this completely to the three things above. Whether it is the over consumption of food or my thrift store finds, I have not left a place with anything less than a few extra pounds and a smile plastered across my face and that is how it should be.