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Thinking Outside the Box

by Roma Patel

photography courtesy of Pexels

When embarking on a vacation, deciding which other cities to visit is often the hardest part. With trying to fit in sight-seeing, shopping and all the stops that friends and family members recommend, it is often hard to find time to partake in unique experiences. Sometimes, skipping out on traditional activities can lead to a more meaningful experience.

Visiting cities can often make seeing a number of sites very appealing. While fitting in the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Tower of London and the National Gallery in London may sound picturesque, it can all tend to become a bit overwhelming. Filling trips solely with popular sites can prevent you from breaking out of the tourist bubble and really getting to know the place you are visiting.

Sometimes, finding untraditional activities can provide you with a more fulfilling experience. Whether it is paragliding in Ecuador, high tea in the United Kingdom or walking through the souks of Marrakech, engaging in experiences while abroad can allow one to get a more personal connection with a place. Rather than seeing sites and parts of the destination from the perspective of an outsider, partaking in an activity allows the individual to gain a better grasp of the culture.

Finding a single activity to add to a trip can give a traveler an entirely different perspective on a place. The activity can be chosen based on the characteristics of the location. In some places, like the deserts of the Middle East or the Amazon, outdoor activities, like hiking, kayaking or swimming, can allow individuals to see a totally different part of a country. Seeing cultural performances, such as a concert, opera or play, also further an individual’s understanding of the music, theater or artistic traditions of a region. Even a unique dining experience, like tapas and sangria in the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid or a six-course dinner in a chateau in France, can provide a traveler with new insights on the culinary customs of a place.

“When I went to Spain a couple of years ago, I took a run through the countryside while the sun was setting, and it was absolutely incredible,” said Michael Lazar (COM ’20). “I got to see the vast expanse of greenery and livestock in an entirely different light. It was stunning.”

Even partaking in simple activities that you might do if you were not on vacation can let you see a less touristy part of a city. From a run along the water to a trip to the grocery store, there are many simple ways for you to break away from the traditional destinations of tourists.

“I once went on an 8-hour biking tour of Versailles, France, with my mom, which allowed us to roam the area in an entirely different way,” said Matthew Knowles (COM ’20). “We were able to go down several alley ways we would have entirely missed if we went to see the palace in the traditional way. When we got tired, we bought a baguette and a bottle of wine and ate it along a lake, which added to my incredibly memorable experience.”

Finding different methods of navigating the destination can often make for a unique experience as well.

“I always try to find different ways to break the norms of tourism, whether that’s just a unique bookshop, a hidden street or a quaint coffee shop,” said Olivia Rolnik (CAS ’20). “Searching for something undiscovered is important to my travel experiences.”

Breaking the traditional methods of tourism can often lead to a more fulfilling experience. So, the next time you find yourself traveling in the U.S. or abroad, try getting out of your comfort zone, abandoning a traditional site and search for something undiscovered. It might just be much more enjoyable.

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