I think the best way to really discover a place is to walk. Just plain, old-fashioned foot to the pavement walking. It is one way that you can really explore every nook and cranny of a city or town. It’s also a way to really integrate with the locals to see the places where they congregate or where they love to spend time.
No matter where my husband and I have travelled – we haven’t done a lot, but we have been to a few places – walking is our No. 1 way of getting around. Not only is it a cheap form of transportation, which is the whole point of this series of tips, but it’s good for your body and spirit, and we feel we can really get to know a place by walking.
DISCOVER YOUR AREA
On our recent trip to both Ponta Delgada and Madeira, we walked almost the whole day everyday, especially my husband. He would go out at least 3 to 4 times a day to walk around. The funny thing is you would think you would become bored after a bit of time seeing the same things over and over again, but we found we discovered new places that we had not noticed earlier. That’s the benefit of walking – you start to notice places that you didn’t take in the previous day. We discovered so many cafes, restaurants, museums, and that is where we found things like the free car show and free Fado music in Funchal, Madeira that I mentioned in Travel Cheap Tip No. 4.
Walking gives you the freedom to go anyplace you want that day. My husband and I have never set up a schedule when we vacation, so we are free to be anywhere at anytime and walking allows us to go wherever we want on any particular day.
Remembering back to when we went to New York City, I was astounded by the number of people walking. The sidewalks were full of people bustling to their destinations. One tour guide at a museum told us if you stop on the sidewalk in Manhattan, a person falls down in Brooklyn. It’s so true – you really have to move with the flow in New York. New York is definitely not a place to just meander, but walking is a really great way to see all the buildings, to spot restaurants to go to for dinner, to find their libraries and museums, their 9/11 memorial, and to look at what their theaters have to offer.
You can certainly book many vacations based around walking and some cities provide guided tours to do just that. National Geographic provides a list of the Top 10 Walks & Hiking Tours which includes cities such as Nova Scotia and Quebec, The Oregon Trail, and Southwest Ireland (a place I would love to visit someday). However, one of the best walking tours is the one you don’t plan and just walk. Go where your feet take you. Of course, be safe. Have an idea of the city you are visiting and the areas that you should stay away from. I have to say, in Madeira, we never felt unsafe and maybe we were too casual, but we walked everywhere there and felt like we had no issues with any of the neighbourhoods we ventured into. You do have to do some research though and have an idea of where you should not venture to.
Your feet may be hurting by the end of the day, but you will have taken so much in that you will need to go back and explore certain places again. Bring a good pair of shoes, probably two, and enjoy. Stop at a café, enjoy your favourite drink, and rest while you plan your next part of your journey.
“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”