When I travel, I like to take in the major sites and destinations: museums, castles, monuments, churches, etc. But, I always like to have time where I can simply wander and explore whatever city I am in. Finding places off the path, beyond the recommendations, is the essence of travel. Some of my favorite travel moments have come from finding a random cobblestone street, a great set of stores, or a café with a delicious cappuccino and a pastry. While it is nice to have set plans, I find having no plans a great part of the fun.
I wrote about a few of my favorite wandering moments in France, Oslo, and Stockholm. But I can recount so many more that helped to shape my trips. Traveling during the cold season adds to my want to wander as I’m constantly looking for a break from the weather. Places that really pique my interest are colleges and libraries. They are open to the public and exist in the beautiful, history filled buildings that I love so much about Europe. Being an English major, my fiancé always tends to guide us into book filled halls and we spend longer than we ever intend.
Wandering in a place you haven’t been before elicits an excitement you can’t get anywhere else. Not knowing what you’ll see next, without Internet at your fingertips, forces you to rely more on your senses, sparking a great sense of self. There are also certain places where you are meant to get lost. My sister told me this is the case in Venice, where I have yet to go, but this same thing I discovered in Amsterdam. Wandering the cobblestone along the waterways, I felt like I could walk 30 minutes in one direction and find myself where I started. You lose your sense of direction among the canals and can simply enjoy the incredibly beautiful bridges, narrow roads, and the soft light of the street lamps reflecting off the water.
One thing that always provides a lasting memory is heading somewhere planned but getting lost along the way, or getting there and finding it is not what you expected. This was the case when I was in San Sebastian with my sisters. My younger sister, Lars, was in class, as she was studying abroad, so she sent my older sister Jessica and I to go check a famous site. It was a two-mile walk and when we arrived the feature was not active at the time, we laughed and made sure to yell at my sister when she got back. Regardless, we fully enjoyed ourselves on the walk to and from finding other sites to explore. During this same trip we also wandered to the top of a famous hillside, which led to a spectacular view of the city.
Wandering brings something so unexpected to a trip and often proves to bring some of the more lasting memories. I love stumbling upon a beautiful building, a unique site, or even something simple that is special in the moment. Whether that is a spectacular view or visiting somewhere you never thought you would see, I always make sure to have time to just explore in all the places I go.