Today finds me nostalgic for the type of travel I used to do and haven’t now in a while. True, I’ve been lucky to have taken some incredible trips in the last few years, all around the globe. Yet I realize I’ve been missing something: the leisurely time to get into the groove of a place, to feel as if I belong, playing a local for at least a day.
Most of my trips as of late have been short, some of them sweet and all with a distinct goal – to find a story and collect as much information as possible for a travel article or a guidebook. That has greatly reduced the time available to do the things that I love when traveling. So I thought I’d pay homage to these travel joys I’ve been missing. Perhaps by writing about them, they’ll come my way again.
I love going to a local post office, most often with a mission of mailing postcards. Lately I’ve been lazily leaving my postcards with hotel concierges, due to time constraints. That makes me miss the waiting in line, observing the people, and experiencing a little bit of local flavor. Nothing beats going postal in a strange place.
The same applies to grocery stores. I love to check out small bodega-type shops or even supermarkets. It’s great to simply wander around and see what’s on the shelves, even if I walk out empty-handed or with a symbolic purchase.
I love running random errands in unknown places, be it fixing shoes by a cobbler or taking a piece of clothing to a tailor. Getting these routine tasks done in an unfamiliar location makes me feel somehow rooted, as if I actually belong in this foreign place. I wrote a post about pretending to belong back in 2008 (one of my first blog posts ever!), when I had just arrived to Lisbon for a four-month stay.
I also love long aimless walks, extended strolls without destination, walkabouts with no direction. There’s nothing like discovering that little cute cafe and sitting down for a cup of tea for hours on end, people-watching, reading, staring into space… That’s travel as I like it yet so rarely get a chance to indulge these days.
I also love getting lost and, instead of consulting a map, stopping random strangers in the street to ask for directions. Maps happen to be my pet peeve and I try to avoid them as much as possible (unless I’m working on a guidebook, when it’s part of my job description to ensure maps are accurate). These little chit-chats in the streets often result in enlightening conversations – so much better and more fun than staring into a map on a street corner!
These are some of my little travel joys. I’d love to hear about yours.