The truth is that once in a while you’ll find yourself in a connection destination—one of those places you chose to visit just to break up a 24-hour bus ride. You may not have taken the time to research this place beforehand, maybe you thought you’d just get some rest, drink lots of coffee, and catching up on some reading and writing emails.
If you’re anything like me, this sounds great in theory. Lying on the beach for hours sounds like a dream. However, this little thing called boredom starts to creep in eventually, and suddenly the day can’t end soon enough. This is a shame—you are on the road, you should be anything but bored. The problem is that you didn’t plan on spending any substantial money on activities here, you’ve only got a day or two, and you really don’t know what’s around on such short notice. Luckily, it can only take five minutes to come up with some rewarding ways to spend your time—here are a few suggestions.
Go to a visitor information centre
Not really an activity, but this is one of the first things I do when in a place that I don’t really know. The people who work in these places are locals and have a wealth of knowledge on popular and lesser-known attractions. Feel free to ask for specifics: what’s your favourite place for good, cheap food? Are there any quiet hiking trails around? Do you know where I can take a cheap tango class? Where is the best craft beer?
Find a city tour
Larger towns and cities usually have some group offering city tours that operate on tips. The standard is five or ten dollars—it really depends on the country. I always feel accomplished whenever I join onto one of these tours for a couple of hours—I learn my way around the city, get a good overview of the culture, history, and landmarks, and maybe even get some ideas of where to spend my time.
Take a class
Look at where you are: the culture, the food, the language. There are plenty of things to learn about. And, if you’re willing to part with a few dollars, someone will teach you. Check out the bulletin board at a café or hostel and grab a few numbers or emails. Maybe not everyone will get back to you or be available for that day, but someone might.
It’s not necessarily just for a place to stay. People sign up to host because they want to meet travellers. Most will be happy to meet up and show you around the area.
Visit a library
I love libraries. It’s amazing to look around and see all of these books and resources that you can access–for free. Central libraries tend to also have brochures and information about the area, and local information is at the forefront. This also might be a great time to get to know the language a bit better (again, depending on where you are).
Beef up your travel itinerary
If worse comes to worse, you can always spend some time planning and finding inspiration for your future destinations. You can always find something new that excites you.
Find the best local _______
Every place is known for something. A quick internet search, asking at the information centre, or at the desk in your hostel can reveal some tips. If all else fails, go somewhere that offers a large variety of a particular commodity, and ask for a recommendation. I’ve had some of my favourite beers by visiting a craft beer place with a huge menu and asking the person behind the counter for their favourite.
Try a photo walk
Challenge yourself to capture the essence of this place in a single photo. It’s hard, no? Capture the traditional or vibrant centre, get up high and look down on the landscape, work up the courage to ask an interesting-looking person if you can take their photo on the street. Sometimes challenging your own creativity is the most exciting way to spend your time.
Do you have any other location-independent suggestions? Share with me!