Visiting a new place? Ride a bus to the end of the line and soak up the sights while coming and going. Get off the bus if you see something or some place that strikes you. Maybe get back on and go to the end of the line after that. Or maybe not.
I love this tip. But I didn't think it up. It's from Pico Iyer, a great travel writer, well known in the biz.
Iyer says he did the bus thing in Miami and ended up in a "spicy part of Little Havana... that seemed to capture the essence of the city."
On my very first trip overseas, I landed at Gatwick and took the bus into London. As sleepy as I was, I remember being gaga (which has NOTHING to do with the "Lady") over the sights out the window. What cute little places people lived in in England!
Iyer also suggests going to McDonald's.
Sound like apostasy? I used to think so. But I've ended up in McDonald's from time to time - in Reykjavik and Paris and somewhere in South America. Usually it was because I wanted a clean, free bathroom with free toilet paper (that can be quite a luxury in some places.)
Or I wanted a quick drink "to go." In some countries, it's the only place you can find such a thing. But I did find that the menu differences were enlightening and often very funny. (Don't ask me to remember specifics. It was a long time ago.)
In Japan, Iyer says, you can find chicken tatsuta burgers, corn-potage soup or "moon-viewing burgers." Sometimes, the patrons are what make the visit. In Bolivia, the fast-food franchise was host to "society ladies," he says, and a security guard was posted to protect the well-dressed guests.
Go over to Pico Iyer's list at the Real Simple website for the rest. I'll mention just one more.
Number 10: "Get lost."
I might not advise apprehensive travelers to purposely get lost. But don't panic if you do.
Some of the best experiences happen while you try to get your bearings. You're more attuned to your surroundings. You're not looking at a guide book. You're looking up and around, and seeing things you weren't searching for.
You'll manage to get back to where you need to be. If it's by interacting with locals, all the better.
Photo: McDonald's, Casablanca