Here are 20 things I learned from 10 different cities this year…
1. Miami, Florida:
Do: talk to strangers
This goes against everything we were taught as kids. It’s ok to talk to strangers as long as you’re smart about it. Be careful of the information you give, especially when traveling alone! If you don’t talk to strangers, then how do you make new friends?
Don’t: eat your sandwich on the beach.
I’m so serious about this, I even wrote a poem. The seagulls are ferocious and out for blood. Expect a scene similar to Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”
2. Cancun, Mexico:
Do: drink the tequila
It’s always 5:00 in Cancun… Don Julio or bust.
Don’t: drink the water.
Or eat the salad, or anything else washed by the water.
3. Seattle, Washington:
Do: Turn your phone off
I realized how refreshing this was in a town that is literally named “Paradise.” My day exploring Mt. Rainier with no service bars was one of the best I had in 2015. In a job where social media and technology is the foundation, it feels so nice to fully disconnect every once in a while.
Don’t: Miss brunch at Citizen
Prepare to be in crepe heaven. If I could chose one place to sum up “Seattle Chill”, this would be it. Order the flatliner coffee. Order all of the coffee… It’s Seattle.
4. Portland, Oregon:
Do: Yield to pedestrians.
The spirit of safe driving is alive in Portland. Drivers cautiously yield to pedestrians with smiles on their faces. If New York City is “yin”, Portland is “yang.”
Don’t: Go to the Japanese Gardens
Save the $10 and go to the International Rose Testing Garden instead. They’re both located in Washington Park, but if you’re traveling on a budget, choose the authentic beauty of the Rose Garden rather than the over-hyped Japanese Gardens.
5. Chicago, Illinois:
Do: Eat carbs.
All of the pizza, and all of the hot dogs. You’ll do plenty of walking around the city, so don’t feel afraid to indulge!
Don’t: Be afraid to be touristy
Go see the big bean, and take a picture on the SkyDeck of the Sears Tower (or Willis Tower). Don’t be too touristy, though. Learn to use public transportation like a local, it will be way cheaper than an Uber.
6. Davenport, Iowa:
Do: Have situational awareness.
There’s nothing like thinking you’re stranded on the streets of a random Iowan town to teach you to be aware of your surroundings.
Don’t: Turn on your travel buddy
Travel can bring forth some high stress situations. While this can bring out the worst in people, it also is a great teacher in working together, problem solving, and peace building.
7. Omaha, Nebraska:
Do: Go to Omaha.
This city is underrated, and I think that’s the beauty of it. It’s quaint, rustic, and fun spirited. I found it on a list of places in the US every 20-something-year-old should visit, and couldn’t agree more
Don’t: Neglect the slide
Omaha was described to me as a playground for adults, and I didn’t realize how literal that was until I got there. Go to the Gene Leahy Mall and go down the slide as many times as you can.
8. Des Moines, Iowa:
Do: Visit the Capitol
I feel like it should be a requirement for all wanderers to visit a state’s capitol building if they are in that city. It gives me a strange, historical connection with the destination afterwards.
Don’t: Expect anything less than amazing hospitality
Des Moinesians were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. Going to a place so overwhelmingly friendly reinforced how far a smile, or buying someone a beer goes.
9. San Diego, California:
Do: Follow Your Heart
Certain places you visit will leave a lasting impression. When you belong somewhere, your soul will feel it. Something a traveler struggles with is planning trips to new cities, or revisiting ones they love so dearly. San Diego is the city my sun loving soul will always go back to.
Don’t: Jump the Gun
“If you love San Diego so much, why don’t you move there?” Everything in good time. There are many things I want to accomplish in life, and have learned the best route to take is patience. If you set realistic goals, and put effort towards achieving them, things will eventually happen as they should.
10. New York, New York:
Do: Explore Close to Home
Suffering from chronic wanderlust is an expensive itch to scratch. There were times this year when I wanted to explore somewhere new, so I would hop on the LIRR, satisfy my need for adventure for the day, and still be able to come home and sleep in my own bed.
Don’t: Limit yourself to Manhattan
Advice from a Brooklyn Born Baby: If you’re planning to explore New York City, don’t forget about the other boroughs! There are so many different vibes all over the city– Brooklyn being different from Queens, being different from Manhattan.