Learning to look beyond the main attractions
Going off the beaten track is often the best way to really get to know a new place and find those secret nooks that the average visitor misses out on!
Every city has its secrets. When you live somewhere it can be very easy to get caught up in your day-to-day activities and forget about the beauty that surrounds you. However, while travelling it is a completely different story; you’re there to create memories and explore every corner you can in order to make the most of your adventure. So how do you find the ‘hidden gems’ – the secret places that most visitors don’t know about?
There are a number of apps available where users are able to share information about where to go, what to do and what to avoid in specific areas.
Findery, FourSquare and Yelp
Most of these types of platforms give you the opportunity to search for specific activities, and will show you reviews. Findery is used to share stories about different places and has a number of blog-style posts written by various people about the areas they have visited.
They can be great to read even if you don’t explore the location in the same way.
ChefsFeed or Denizen
For those looking for good places to eat, there are a number of applications you can use that have user ratings and advice on what to get. All you have to do is search your area and what you want to eat. ChefsFeed will even let you type in a particular dish, so if you’re in an area that is famous for a particular cuisine, search it and give it a go – it will open your taste buds to a whole new sensation!
Some of the groups on Meetup – such as hiking groups or climbing groups – are a great way to explore beyond the city you’re in and an even better way to get to know people in the area. Depending on which city you are in, there may be other online forums that can be used to explore. Given Meetup is a bunch of random people getting together for a particular activity, everyone is in the similar situation of not knowing each other so it makes bonding a lot easier. You may make some friends along the way who can introduce you to other spots.
Ask the locals
While locals may not have explored much of their backyard, they generally have a good idea of what you should and shouldn’t see. They also tend to know if there is a cheaper way to explore, for example in some places, you’ll want to pre-book tickets for events or shows because the prices are more expensive if you buy them at the venue. If you come across a local who has travelled before, they are likely to have also had a look around their own city and found some secret spots that haven’t been overwhelmed with other travellers.
If you’re in a new city, the best place to find hidden gems is to go exploring, take a walk, head to the highest point you can find and then look down. You may be able to see a pocket of beauty that you can explore from there. Otherwise, follow your feet, you never know where you could end up. Make sure you have a map and know the name of the place you are staying at before you head out so that you can work your way back to where you are staying.
Find some other tourists
If you’re staying in a hostel, get to know the other people staying there. Find out what they are doing and see if you can tag along, or ask them where they have been, what they enjoyed most. They may even have some travel tips for other areas you are looking at exploring!
If you check out geocaching.com and type in the address of where you are staying or of an area you are exploring, you may find some geocaches nearby! All you need is a smartphone or a GPS device in order to find these hidden treasures. You can go geocaching at any time of day or night – just research your area first to see how safe it is to wander around at night. It will open your eyes to some beautiful places – there are currently 2 million geocaches around the world!
Try a different mode of transport
If you’ve been doing a lot of walking on your travels, find an area where you can rent a bike or some rollerblades and explore the area that way. Bikes can cover more distance than if you travel by foot and can go where cars can’t which means that you can go off the beaten track a bit more. Some cities will have cycleways to the outer suburbs so if you’re fit enough these are great ways to explore areas you might otherwise miss out on.
Create a bucket list
Not only will this give you some ideas of what you can do while travelling, you may also discover that you can tick off some of these activities in different countries! Think about the dancing man video where the guy dances in lots of different countries – that could be you. Bucket lists are a great way to make sure you experience everything. You may find that while you’re embarking on one adventure, it gives you other ideas of what you want to experience.
You can even create something with a more specific timeframe – creating a 101 Things In 1001 Days list can be an incredible way to make sure you get through a whole lot of your top goals in a set period of time (about 2.7 years, in fact).
Use social media
Instagram is one of the best tools for discovering cool things. If you type in your location, you will find what other travellers and locals have been doing in the area. You may find some really amazing images that you want to replicate. Instagram can also be used as a photo library for travellers.
Update your location on Facebook and create a status that tells people where you are and what you’re doing. Facebook’s algorithms see moving between cities as being a major life event, meaning it will show up on most of your friend’s newsfeeds. You may find that people message you to let you know that they have friends who live in the city you are in. As the world becomes more accessible, the likelihood of someone knowing someone in your area is increased.
Consult a travel guidebook
Guidebooks from companies like Lonely Planet, DK Eyewitness, Rough Guides and Fodors can point you in the right direction for places to stay and things to do, and they can also give you tips of what to expect in certain places. Once you’re there, follow your feet and see what piques your interest. Travel guidebooks are pretty easy to use and unlike mobile phones, they don’t require connection to a local telecom provider or wifi to use. They will usually also come with a map of some kind (DK Eyewitness is especially good for a variety of maps) to help you discover more about the area you are in, and most of the time it’ll also include a little guide to the local language.
Find a market
Marketplaces are full of delicious treats and generally bring people together. In New Zealand there are farmers’ markets that run on weekends in most cities. In Auckland and Wellington (and other main centres) there are also night markets that host a range of cheap food outlets. Not only will it be an adventure but marketplaces hold all sorts of secrets and if you start talking to people there you may find even more hidden gems!
Find what you love
Do you have a hobby back home? Why not try doing it while you are abroad? If you play football at home, see if there is a team that is short of a player for the afternoon and get involved. While you may only be visiting a country for a short period of time, this can be a great way to meet new people and experience the local culture. If you love live music search for a local club that has some.
Put yourself out there, go exploring, try new things and let your feet do the walking and your senses will discover things you weren’t expecting. Get involved in activities and events that are happening in the area you are in – and from there you may discover new adventures and make some friends along the way. It’s all about keeping an open mind and staying safe.