For many people, travel anchors around a singular attraction, or set of attractions. It could be a desire to visit Times Square at night or watch the sun rise behind the Eiffel Tower and whatever it may be for you, there’s no wrong way to travel. Those things are legitimately cool. But for me, personally, it’s not entirely what I seek.
I travel to expand my palate of taste, my understanding of cultures outside of my personal experience and to see if there are other places in the world I could actually live. It sounds a bit hippie, I know, but once you’ve been lucky enough to tick off the big attractions, it’s the deeper part of travel that hooks you in. In doing so, my goal in any city is the same: find my neighbourhood, and work from there.
That’s right: in any city I visit, my first order of business is to establish where I, or perhaps a person I’d aspire to be might actually live in this metropolis, or destination.
In most cities, it’s not where most tourists are. Where would I fit into the equation of this exciting place, in an alternate life?
I ascribe to every travel cliché like foodie, boutique shopper, cocktail enthusiast and coffee snob, so figuring out where that would land me in any city I visit is vital. This simple task has lead me, without fail, to my favourite travel experiences and deepest memories. Yes, I love sunsets and I appreciate famous landmarks, but having an existential or fantasy experience is what leaves the most lasting impressions.
It’s the tastes you’d hop on a plane just to experience once more, or that little shop behind the alley way, where you got that thing that few others will ever seen.
There’s just nothing quite like the moment where it clicks, and you see your potential “best self” in a new destination. For a fleeting moment, or matter of days, you become a local. Perhaps the greatest thrill, is that it’s not always easy. In a city where you don’t speak the language, or people tend to live far away from the central business district, it’s the thrill of exploration that takes you outside of the standard travel experience.
It’s being in Tokyo, without the ability to speak more than a few words of Japanese, or read any of it, yet you find your group – or the group you’d like to hang out with – and you see what their commute entails, what time they eat, and whether they go out for a beer after work. If so, – where?
You find the best coffee shop, the perfect wine bar where the “other you” would be, if you lived here. It’s these spots which become invaluable memories and sometimes, even friends too. You know that you’re onto a winner when you’re the outsider.
It’s connecting the life you know at home, with a surreal life abroad. When you put the two together, you realise that we’re all pretty much the same.
You find the perfect neighbourhood, the great “local” and find people of similar preferences. In the best cities, this is all made even more fun when there’s choice.
Do you go for the West Village in NYC, or perhaps Soho? But what about Upper West Side, or DUMBO. In Melbourne, is it Windsor, Fitzroy, or somewhere like Brighton? London – where do you even start? Finding your alternate life abroad is such an escapist thrill and such a great way to get a deeper sense of not only culture, but how far a salary goes in that country.
Once you’ve ticked off the big ticket items like the Colosseum, Eiffel Tower, Washington Monument, Angkor Temple and all that – give this simple concept a whirl, and see where it takes you. For me, it’s filled my brain with whims of fantasy and excitement only travel is capable of creating.