What is the first thing you do when you arrive in a new city or destination?
Samantha Brown, the adorable and bubbly host of so many Travel Channel shows believes that best way to spend your first moments in a new city is to go for a walk. She also believes that strip malls are a treasure trove for delicious ethnic meals.
Samantha Brown shared her travel advice during the Washington DC Travel Adventure Show to a standing room only crowd of travelers young and old hungry to hear ideas on how to travel better from this veteran traveler with “the best job in the world.”
Five Tips To Travel Better
1. Go for a walk
I love this advice on how to travel better as I always go for a walk when I first arrive in a new city. I remember the first time I did this intentionally, I was in Sioux Falls South Dakota and taking a walk had two purposes: to explore, but also to stretch my legs after a long day of travel. I had an idea of where I wanted to go and was equipped with my phone just in case, but I proceeded to get lost wandering from a trail to the streets of downtown Sioux Falls, where I discovered a coffee shop that made an excellent espresso.
Samantha Brown shared that going for a walk is the “universal piece of advice” that she gives to help travelers be a part of everyday life no matter where they are headed. While it can appear that walking without a map is aimless wandering, Brown points out that taking a walk is purposeful. Her walks cement the “I am here” feeling and connection to a culture or neighborhood- as it is today.
2. Be present when you travel
Samantha Brown’s second travel tip to travel better is to be in the present- by not spending all your time in the past. As much as historical sites are compelling, there is often so much more to a destination than its history. While it is hard to avoid places like the Parthenon if you are visiting Athens or the Colosseum if you are visiting Rome, authentic travel means not being bound by history and allowing for spontaneous adventures. Travel in the moment by allowing for time to explore a street that catches your eye or by setting aside your guide book or itinerary.
3. Create rituals when you travel
One of my favorite tips that Samantha Brown shared on how to travel better was to create rituals. Instead of seeking out new experiences all day long while you travel, going back to the same coffee shop or park bench makes sense as Brown shared, to fully be able to appreciate and take in the feelings and emotions around you. Additionally, Brown shared another benefit of creating rituals- as rituals allow you to zone out for a brief moment. Knowing that you are going back to the same coffee shop each day means less research to find the “best” place like taking ten minutes to sit on the same park bench gives you time to people watch and collect your thoughts each day.
I am not sure I have ever done created rituals intentionally but look forward to trying this travel tip on my next adventure. I also love the idea of using the same ritual on each trip- whether it is coffee shops, park benches or whatever ritual suits you- as a way to see new perspectives across new destinations.
4. Talk to locals (and eat a strip mall restaurants)
My husband goes a bit crazy when I suggest that we rely on the advice of locals for restaurant suggestions while we travel (although to his credit, he is learning)- so I loved Samantha Brown’s advice to talk to locals to find places that may or may not be off the beaten path- but that you might otherwise not have found. While a hotel concierge can offer fabulous advice, consider asking a taxi driver, housekeeping staff or a sales clerk in a boutique where you are shopping about what restaurants or neighborhoods they like. Brown takes the idea one step further and makes it a point to explore strip malls for delicious ethnic restaurants- that although they may not look like much from the outside, often bring visitors on a culinary feast for the senses.
5. Look beyond the must see attractions when you travel
We often hear people talk about off-the-beaten adventures or hidden gems related to travel. Samantha Brown suggest that travelers look for the “comma.” The search for the mundane allows us to experience beyond the normal, beyond the cookie cutter sights and sounds that everyone else sees and feels.
The more I thought about this search for the comma, I thought about how during our Eastern Mediterranean cruise we chose to explore each port city on our own instead of with a tour organized by the ship, whereas the couple at our dinner table took the group excursions each day. While there is no right or wrong way to travel, I was always thankful as we compared our adventures that we had forged our own path- to experience beyond the must sees. After all, the search for the mundane is what creates unique memories from one person to another.
Watch Samantha Brown at the Washington DC Travel Adventure Show to hear more about her advice on how to travel better:
For more travel tips and advice, follow Samantha Brown on twitter and explore her own site. (And watch for an upcoming web video series that will highlight her strip mall restaurant finds!)
*Disclosure: The Washington DC Travel Adventure Show provided me with a press pass to attend the show. I was under no commitment to write about the travel show nor was any compensation received.