The best travel moments are almost always unexpected. Yet going off-script usually entails endangering the most valuable commodity a tourist has: Time. We must be ready to give up a sure thing ( a major attraction, a picturesque location, a buzzed-about cafe) for the unfamiliar ( turning down a dirt road, approaching a stranger, stepping through a door).
I travel with a more unwieldy to-do list than most, one which I assemble from friends, colleagues, readers & my Web research. There’s always more in my itinerary than I possibly could accomplish.
Yet, my most treasured lifelong memories come from exploring streets and neighborhoods early in the morning in any new city. Wandering before the other tourists are out and about has given me the chance to see locals on their way to work, appreciate beautiful views and historic monuments all to myself, and given me the courage to let myself get lost and interact in more meaningful ways.
A few years ago my family rented an apartment for a few days in a neighborhood near Piazza Navona in Rome. While my wife and kids slept, I snuck out just after dawn to take walks. I had no idea how magnificent Bernini’s fountains in the piazza were until I saw them up close, in a still-quiet city, without having to jostle my way through throngs of people. And I will never ever forget rounding a corner to find myself face to face with the Pantheon without another soul in site. I sat down and soaked up that moment. I always returned to our apartment exhilarated after such walks.
So folks, take a chance and take off beat paths find lifelong memories while travelling. As its said in the Chinese proverb -A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.