Traveling To A New Place

man under sign
Image: Wootang01.

There's something special about a trip to a new place. Everything is new, and you've got lots to explore. But this newness also comes with some unique frustrations. It's entirely possible that you'll feel a little unfulfilled, time will be wasted, things will be skipped or missed entirely. But, don't despair. I've got a few tips that will help you get the most out of your next "first" trip.

Treat It Like A Scouting Trip.
One of the worst things you can do to a trip is put pressure on it. But here's the thing, trips don't like pressure. By thinking that you'll never, ever, go back, you're planting a bad seed in your mind that will grow into a horrible mess of stress and anxiety. If you're never going back, then you've got to see everything worth seeing, all in just a few days.

So, instead, think of each and every trip to a new place like a scouting mission. Plan to go places you want to see, but don't assume that your plans can't or won't change. Constantly be on the lookout for unexpected things you might want to do. If you come across something really cool, entertain the possibility of skipping the big thing (a museum or attraction) in favor of something that fits your personality a bit better.
The bottom line? Skip the anxiety and adopt the mindset that you can always come back.

Plan To Visit A Neighborhood.
No matter what kind of trip you're going on, whether it's a new place or old, I'd always recommend setting some time aside to visit some neighborhoods. I've found that visiting neighborhoods, along with all the other attractions, help to keep me grounded. When you see people living their lives, not only do you get an up-close view of a place's heartbeat and culture, it goes a long way to preventing the "amusement park effect." After seeing so many museums, prominent attractions, and tourist traps, it's hard not to get wrapped up in the facade typically presented to tourists. Fight that malady by diving headfirst into the real world that people live in.

Take It Easy, Avoid Glassy Eyes.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Take it easy when you're out and about. When you're new to a place, it's especially easy to run yourself ragged, hopping from place to place. Plan downtime, a coffee, a snack, or just a break in the park.

What's the alternative? Getting too tired. Doing so much that you need a vacation from your vacation. Seeing so much in a day that your brain just shuts down. You're looking, but you don't really see.

Skip A Big Thing.
Pick one thing. One thing that everyone tells you, "You simply HAVE to go there" and skip it. Why? Not only will it give you a big reason to go back, but it'll free up some time for relaxation, random exploring, and anything else that may pop up.
On my first trip to Berlin, I stood staring at the Pergemon museum, one of the biggest, most famous museums in the world. And I walked away. I'd already had a full day of exploring, was tired, and you know what? It's still there. I can go back. (And I will!) Did I feel like I missed anything? Not really. I got to ride the bus around, tasted freshly cooked sausages at a farmers market, and got lost more than my fair share, which sounds like a good trip, no matter where I am.

Revel In Your Mistakes.
Mistakes. You're going to make them. Whether it's getting caught with an (unbeknownst to you) expired transit pass, or constantly mixing up the Italian words for peach and fish, it's going to happen in some form. You might be embarrassed, but you know what? All those mistakes are ten times more memorable, compared to all the nice "normal" things that happened on your trip. Plus, they make great stories. So revel in those mistakes, and share them!

Do you have any tips for a traveler going to a new place? Feel free to leave your advice in the comments below.

As a slight aside...For an excellent travel story, check out the photo above on flickr. The author gives us a glimpse into a trip to China, with his perspective of a very new place.


Great mindset and useful advice! I've often found that I tire myself out when I don't plan for enough time in one place... whirlwind tours of a new city (or country!) and the expectation that I'll be able to do everything I'd like to on /that/ visit can lead to burn out. Which puts quite the damper on your travel plans. In my upcoming explorations of new places, I'll definitely plan for a nap in the park or some reading in a quiet cafe.