Spoiler alert! I’ve seriously dropped the ball where content is concerned. Between brunch “research”, business development, family visits and discovering 30 Rock for the first time, I have had to put this baby on the back burner. (Wow, you should never put a baby on a backburner and it’s times like these I regret having a brain with no filter). ANYWAYS, I’m now in it to win it again and so today I wanted to share some super useful tips I wish I had discovered earlier!
Trips don’t have to be all about the trendy restaurants and Instagram-worthy popup exhibits… I know, right? Shocking. Some of my favorite memories traveling have been those pockets “in-between.” Moments I never planned for and activities I would have (probably) completely missed had I embarked with a group. Reason #829353 why solo travel is where it’s AT! So without further ado, I give you my favorite activities that are completely fo’ free (this is where you pause apathetically and say… “sure”) in any city!
1 | ONE Just chillax.
I didn’t even have to try for this one. Sitting in a park, garden or near a body of water and reading your favorite book can be one of the most rewarding things when you travel. It’s time to relax, get into the spirit of the locals and take stock of where you are. I love having a jam-packed schedule and making sure I see everything there is to see in a place, but what I love even more is feeling like I belong – even if for one carefree moment.
2 | TWO Appreciate the architecture.
Or natural landscape! No matter where you are, you probably bought your ticket based on a pre-conceived idea of what the destination is all about. It’s amazing how different every city looks when you truly look. So appreciate the character, the culture and the small details that are iconically *fill in the blank*
3 | THREE Read about the history of where you’re standing.
Nerd alert! I love Rick Steves, and call me crazy, but I adore listening to his free podcasts about different cities. You can learn a lot, laugh at terrible puns and chuckle “Ohhhh, Rick” to yourself quietly as suspecting locals start to look your way. Recipe for success, I tell you. And the best part is that you’ll have something to remember about every picture you take about different buildings + sites which if we’re being honest, can start to look the same if we wander without a purpose.
4 | FOUR Research free events that will be happening while you’re there.
Concerts, art shows, pop-up shops even! You’d be surprised at how many things don’t have to cost you a dime. And in that same vein *shudders to self because I’m phobic of bloodwork* there are tons of galleries and art museums that are free all the time or on certain days of the week. Many will accept donations in place of a standard ticket price, so it’s completely your perogative (cue Britney Spears).
5 | FIVE Watch the sunset or sunrise.
Hate to be cliche here, but this is my absolute favorite thing to do in any city (after coffee of course which I GUESS you have to pay for). It’s simply amazing to see the sky fade into milky pastels or cotton candy pink — all right before your eyes with a new landscape every time. I double dog dare you to try it and I promise, it’ll leave you breathless.
6 | SIX Stroll through the local market.
There hasn’t been a city I’ve visited that hasn’t had some kind of market – whether farmer’s or flea, window shopping is just one of life’s little pleasures. And it’s a great way to see/meet locals in their home territory. Ya know, when they don’t suspect you to be a tourist. If you want to go the extra mile to make life amazing, splurge a little on some meats + cheeses or foraged flowers so you can have a nice picnic aferwards. Why? Splurging in these markets means spending $5-10.
7 | SEVEN Admire churches + cathedrals.
You may find yourself thinking “but don’t they all look the same?” And the answer is absolutely not. If I had kept that attitude (which I almost did) in Barcelona, I would never have experienced La Sagrada Familia which has been one of the best moments of my life.
8 | EIGHT Seek out the street musicians.
Wow, these guys are amazing! And sure, some are just a gimmick (or almost like watching those cringe-worthy American Idol auditions except not on your tv), but I can’t tell you how fun it is to stumble upon a band after schnitzel in Germany because you turn the corner and hear a strange version of “Tainted Love” in almost-English. Or “Hello, Dolly” in Croatia. Tbh, the best was hearing “Galway Girl” on Grafton Street in Dublin. But pro tip: be especially mindful of pickpockets here. It’s a harsh world.
9 | NINE Spend some time writing your friends + family back home.
If you can spot 30 minutes to chill with a nice view (and perhaps Louis Armstrong) crooning in your ear, it’s just as rewarding to write letters/postcards as it is to receive them. Tell your loved ones about the amazing things you’ve seen, the comedic language barrier (and embarrassing moments that have resulted) and of course the food you’ve eaten. Snail mail is forgotten today, so let’s all work together to bring it back because let’s face it – everyone loves getting mail that’s not utility bills!
10 | TEN Collect some free souvenirs.
Pebbles on a beach, coasters from the restaurants you’ve dined at, matchboxes or candy wrappers. Anything (preferably small + light) you can take with you that you can display in your home one day to remember these memories in an unconventional way
BONUS | Pet all the dogs.
I would say “I wish I were joking”, but I’m completely serious. My advice is to learn how to say “Can I pet your dog” in whichever language applicable and use it unapologetically. People, in Europe at least, bring there dogs everywhere and literally pull up seats for them at the restaurant table. So thank you, Europe. You’ve supported me in more emotional ways than I can say.