i don't know if you travel much but the following tips can be used by anyone .. and at any place. whether it's "just" your hometown (which can be a small country town near a big city, like it was in my case) or a big trip to a foreign and complete strange country .. anyone of us choses how to get to know these places.
do you buy a map or a guide first? do you google everything about it? do you plan as much details as you are able to? booking everything months before the actual date or do you just see how it comes?
well, no matter what type of traveller you are, here are some of the things i found valuable and flexible enough for nearly every place:
2. FORGET YOUR GUIDE AND GET LOST. this one is an important one. just let go a little bit of control and just walk through the streets that look the most interesting to you. the first time i said that advice was in venice two years ago. my boyfriend wanted to plan and take the map but i wanted to explore the city without exactly knowing where we are. unfortunately (or luckily?) my boyfriend has a very good orientation and i think he just creates a map in his mind. well, i don't create a map in my mind so it's possible for me to get lost. which is a good thing.
3. HAVE A LITTLE PROJECT. if you set yourself a little project, you'll see the place with different eyes. you'll pay attention on the details and aspects that could pay off for your project. for me, this was watching out for the rooftops and the line they naturally draw between them and the horizon. sounds kitschy but i couldn't think of a better way to describe what i was looking at right now. with that project in mind, i saw Prague under different aspects.
generally, i was "on the hunt" for some possible drawing and photography motifs, so i payed attention on different angles and perspectives or some great details. which leeds me to my next advice ..
4. BE GUIDED BY COLORS AND PATTERNS. this is kind of a part of my second advice "FORGET YOUR GUIDE AND GET LOST.". i think it's a good way to just take the streets that look the most interesting to you (instead of taking the biggest and touristic ones). your interest will naturally be leaded by the things that strike out and draw your attention to them: colors and patterns. i believe that the eye recognizes many things directly at first sight, without us noticing them really consciously. taking a closer look at the details which create the whole impression and atmosphere can be rewarding. having a camera or paper + pencil with you, can help remembering these little things.
5. TRY DIFFERENT TRANSPORT SERVICES. viewing a place from different angles and perspectives is an advice i have highlighted pretty much in the advices above. and why not go easy on yourself and let others do the work for you on your trip? try to travel with a boat (in Venice and Prague a great thing to get to know the city wildly differently!), the metro, the bus or the plane (a private helicopter could do the work). you can even try the ricksha or an old-timer.
6. TRY TO BE LOCAL-LIKE. well, i know that's tough. and i don't think it's a good idea to pretend (and insist) being a real local. here's an example where it didn't work out:
when i was 17 i got an assistant job at a photographer's studio in London (lucky me i got an answer on my "hi, i like to photograph. can i come over?"-mail. more on that in my DREAM BIG - post). so i searched for an accommodation and found a nice family that rented a little room which was an hour ago from the studio. so i took the metro every day and saw that every real Londoner grabbed a newspaper which was for free at the station. my issue had a little hole in it (just in the height of my eyes, how could that have happen .. ?), so i watched the other passengers the whole journey, analyzing what makes them a "real Londoner". i really did look like them, didn't i?but what i mean with trying to be local-like is not pretending to actually be a local. just to do the things they do, try to understand their daily life, visit the places they visit. they won't go to the "greatest tower/church/place/castle you've ever seen". instead, they'll maybe go to little parks or nice bars and restaurants or little local shops - which mostly aren't in the city center. if you're not lucky, they'll probably go to the supermarket or to their home in a outlying part of the city.
so i'd say: observe first and if you don't want to try your luck and just follow locals (without attracting attention - in my first advice i said you can be anyone you want to be, so why not be a secret agent ..?) just ask them which local place they would recommend going to besides all the touristic places.
thank you for reading, see you on wednesday when it's time for another part of the sketchbook project (sounds a little like a tv show ..).