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My best piece of travel advice

When I travel, I like to experience a place on a deeper level. More like a local, less like a tourist (though there is nothing wrong with being a tourist—trust me, I do that, too! The best way to engrain yourself into a city’s local culture?

Go for a walk.

Just set out. Walk out of your hotel or Airbnb. Put the map away. Ignore Yelp or Foursquare or whatever app you might normally lean on. Just go down the streets because you think they look good. Go where the day takes you.

My first stop (and probably yours!) is almost always for a cup of coffee. Somehow, there always seems to be the best coffee shop you’ve ever seen in the next block. You will stumble upon the little diners and cozy wine bars. You don’t need 35 reviews from strangers from Arizona to Peoria to Vietnam telling you where you should get a cup of coffee. Figure that out on your own.

Since the beginning, going for a walk has always been a part of how I approach filming a show. I hit the street and feel how neighborhoods change from one to the other. This always takes me to where people actually live and not necessarily to the tourist squares and attractions.

Create a daily ritual.

Samantha Brown shares her best piece of travel advice.

Want to take this a step farther? If you’re in a place for a few days, create a daily ritual. I know a lot of people think they don’t want to visit the same place twice, and I get that, but creating a ritual in a new city is a way to get centered. It really only needs to take 20 minutes. Whether it’s the coffee shop in the morning or afternoon (or both!), enjoying a glass of wine on your patio, the reading of your emails at the same park bench, just that sense of really slowing down time will actually enhance your travels. Most of us feel really bullied by time in travel and in life. That’s how I try to get that time back and be in the moment. Try it. I think you’ll like it!


How do you like to connect to a new city? Share in the comments! PS Here are more of my best travel tips.


This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. I like to take a tour of the city, Greyline or something similar. That way I get an overview of the city and what it has to offer, and can plan the rest of my visit accordingly. Many of the tour companies offer “hop off-hop on” privileges for the rest of the day, so plan you tour early enough to take full advantage.

  2. Other than a possible safety concern, I think that advice is good. Becoming more aware of where you are and when you are could make the memory created by slowing down and absorbing the moments that much richer. I should make it easier to say where and when you have been.

  3. I like to make sure to talk with the desk staff if I’m staying in a hotel. They know the area and can let you know about important local events …like the protest when in I was in Paris that disrupted the local metro. And in Barcelona, where we returned to our room and found a chilled bottle of champagne to celebrate my travel partner’s birthday. It pays! Next trip, I’m packing some small souvenirs from my little hometown to share with these folks.

  4. and THAT’s why I am moving back to Germany in my retirement (now!). I can’t find it in the United States and bars with huge TV screens and lousy food are not my idea of a good time. As soon as I enter Europe, people socialize differently, all age groups, backgrounds, education levels mingle and enjoy a sunny afternoon out in the coffee shop or wine or beer pub. That is essential and you have pointed that out many times in your shows. When you visit, try to grasp that spirit and socialize, talk to people, they like that!

    1. Wolfgang, so agree with you. Born in the US but grandparents emigrated here from Bavaria in the 1920’s and somehow, I think they are why I feel like a European soul. I try to get to Europe every year just to reconnect myself to my roots. I hope you enjoy your retirement!

  5. I agree! We will start out in Copenhagen this year of our 50 day trip. We always get there in the morning, train it to old town and off we go walking around. We try to sample local foods & visit a grocery market or farmers market. We often have picnics in our room or park just because we don’t like ratting heavy meals. Just in talking with locals or the big “I”, we get all the info we need.

  6. Slowing down travel definitely is a better travel experience. We are on the road continuously traveling now and try and spend at least 3 weeks in each place. Our first year was every four nights on the move to the next destination. We were exhausted and not really enjoying a place. We enjoy sitting in cafes and watching the locals go about there day.

  7. Go to a local bar and have dinner and drinks at the bar — strike up conversations and meet new people!

  8. Use local transportation. Love the idea of creating a daily ritual. One time my friend and I found a great little Italian restaurant near our hostel in Prague. Fresh salads, delicious pasta, good cheap wine – and all the locals were there. We ate there (nearly) every evening!

  9. I like to stop by places frequented by locals, blue collar workers, such as a popular convenience store or liquor store. You get a feel for the local vibe. You meet some real characters.

  10. We just returned from a 22nd anniversary trip to Victoria, BC a great city for walking. The on and hop off busses are good but the pedicab is better, The tour guide was a lfe long resident and he was very good. We don’t drink so bars were out for us, but coffee shops are plentiful.


    1. We did the same back in June of this year. We stayed at an Air BnB in Victoria, which did not require a car, so we walked everywhere. It made it feel so much like home, speaking to people in the neighborhood, seeing the sights from the sidewalk instead of a tour bus. Victoria was lovely and welcoming.

  11. Slowing down and savoring the moment makes for the best travel memories. One of my best was taking afternoon tea in Butchart Gardens, near Victoria BC. We enjoyed our tea tray with some sparkling wine looking out over the sunken Italian Renaissance garden on a perfect day, gardens in full bloom. I will never forget that moment of serenity.

  12. I always check out the local grocery store. Out of necessity and curiosity. Always interesting to see what they have that’s different. You get a sense of the local food culture.

    1. I agree! My bride and I did a drive around the southern half of Ireland in Autumn of 2011. Our daily plan was to stop at the grocery store after breakfast to grab food for lunch on the road. Bread, meat, cheese, crudite. It worked well.

      Side note: buying the Ireland database for our GPS saved our marriage. 🙂

  13. When my husband and I travel to a new place, we always schedule a food tour. They always take us away from the tourist areas, and into the places that the locals enjoy. We have conversations with people about food, family, their hometown, etc. It makes memories that we would never have had without this specific activity. Its worth every penny and 3 or 4 hours of your time. Our food tour was last week in Cozumel, Mexico. In anticipation of a tropical storm Nate, we were the only ones that showed up for the tour. Therefore, our tour was a private one, and very special. And the storm missed the little island altogether.

  14. Going for a walk while on a vacation is one of the best thing ever! Especially in this era of quick Uber, Railway, Taxi we just forget that we can explore new places on our very own two feet.

  15. My daughter and disembarked in St Petersburg Russia stayed at a local Hotel that looked like an old Palace beautiful ,We didn’t sign up for any tour and just walked the city on our on people so friendly we walked to the Hermitage museum,and we walked to the church of the blood we stopped at a local cafe no idea what they would have and was treated to the best potato pancakes ever I love to venture out it also was there Memorial Day and we seen so many people marching in a parade that went past our hotel holding up pictures of family members who where lost and people walking around with flowers bread cheese and wine finding Veterns and showering them with gifts great time in Russia with no collusion lol

  16. The first thing that I do is to find out where the locals eat.
    I love to walk around in a new city. I lived in Paris for a year
    going to culinary school and walked or rode my bike, awestruck by
    the city’s beauty and energy.

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