Stuck in the Suburbs (or somewhere like it)…

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Again, Kansas. Middle of Nowhere, Kansas. 1 July 2017.

Whether you are looking for things to do when you are home, when people are visiting you, or when you are visiting somewhere else but you are far from any real sites worth seeing, you have to figure out what you can do – after all, Netflix and chill only works for so long.

So, stuck in the suburbs (or middle of nowhere Kansas) and what do you do?

First, if you are creative enough, there is always something to do. There are parks to see, walks to take or hikes depending on the terrain and these seem much more common the more central you head. In Kansas, this ended up being Milford State Park and Kansas Landscape Arboretum.  If a few walks in the park doesn’t fill your time, you can take any mundane thing and make it an adventure if you change a few details (anyone remember fancy dress bowling?). Get overdressed, make a scavenger hunt, make an event out of every small thing the town can offer.

Second, if you can get your hands on a vehicle – especially if you are in LA or the middle of nowhere – you options grow exponentially.

In LA, we recently discovered cooking nights. There are companies out in the warehouse areas – like West LA – that house classes from cooking to tastings to game nights and as long as you have a rough idea of what activities you may want to participate in you can usually find them. However, even in LA, it usually means taking quite a drive. This doesn’t mean that you won’t find these activities elsewhere. Even Kansas can boast it;s share of murder mystery dinners and zip lining activities – we actually found these when looking for fun activities to explore.

And finally, of course, if you have access to a car and time to move further away – say a few hours – you can usually hit another area (a bigger city, for example) and then, once again, your odds of finding things also expands. Take Kansas: from where I am staying, a two hour drive takes you to either Wichita or Kansas City. Personally, I’m looking at the latter. But that’s next week.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

 

 

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Stuck in the Suburbs (or somewhere like it)…

Travel Starved….

…and getting through it.

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Chinese Lantern Festival, Los Angeles. March 2016.

This post marks number 108 over the course of three years and, without having any real new travel in the last few months, it is easy to admit that I’m getting more than a little stir crazy being back home – a feeling I know more travelers than not have felt more than once or twice (a year!).

So what can you do? After all, despite what a million pins say on Pintrest, 90%+ of us -especially with college loans – are never going to put enough away to quit our jobs and travel for years at a time.

Well, you can work on your staycation list – or start creating one!

As I’ve said before, most of us that have lived in one place our whole lives haven’t explored much of our local environment, so if you get together the kind of things you want to do or see in places that you don’t live, you’ll probably be able to find an a similar activity closer to home – with a few environmental exceptions of course.

Look at art, science, or history museums, local carnivals and Ren Faires – which are growing in number and theme! – or just different parts of surrounding towns or cities. Push this further by subscribing to your local event sights – they’ll cover everything from art events to fairs – this way you’ll be notified on events all year long!

The key is to just get out and away from the sights (and sometimes the people) you see everyday.

For example, this weekend, we took the metro down to union station for the Chinese Lantern Festival. While this felt a lot more like a local multi-cultural festival than anything else and only lasted a few hours (not quite enough to slake my travel thirst), it was a good way of getting out of my own house and head and explore part of my world I hadn’t seen in a while. It helped.

Another thing to remember is you should try to save what you can do locally for the long haul, and do shorter, far away trips. Maybe you won’t get a month – yet alone a year – exploring temples or forests or beaches in your dream destinations, but you can usually figure something short out. For an added bonus, try to plan for the off season and you’ll get more out of your money with fewer crowds to fight through.

The thing that many of us are guilty of – myself included – is to torture ourselves with images and pins of all the beautiful places in the world we hope to travel to instead of the office/jobs that we are – for lack of a better term – trapped in. For this reason, if you are really traveled starved, I do not recommend pinning travel ideas or images or even reading about others adventures if you aren’t actively working to get yourself on those adventures – be it saving money or staying local.

Whatever it is that you need to do to get over your travel-pining, do it without torturing yourself.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Travel Starved….

Belated Winter Wonderland…

Bundle up, cause, baby, it’s cold outside!

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Winter Wonderland. Hyde Park, London, England. December 2014.

Yes, we’re through most of the holiday festivities for 2014, with only a few days left before we all slip into the new year and our new resolutions (if you’re still thinking about yours, feel free to check out mine here!), but that doesn’t mean the celebrations have to stop yet!

I talked a few weeks back about various winter festivities going on and, while the last few are coming to an end, there is still a little bit of time to head out into the cold and enjoy yourself.

This past week I walked along the Thames as I trekked to Hyde Park and the biggest winter carnival I’ve ever seen: Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland.

If you are in London, or if you ever end up here between November and the end of the year, this is truly an event to head out to. While the whole park is packed with people of all shapes and sizes, whether you are strolling through soaking in the atmosphere and taking pictures, running about with friends/family to see how many rides you can hit, or chilling with a mulled wines and listening to some local talent, this is a wonderland with options for everyone.

I wanted to walk around and see what there was, watch some skating, and maybe grab a bite to eat,but I ended up wandering for well over an hour (and that was without skating, sitting around, or going on rides!). If you are going to partake in this event, you’ll want to really devote your day to it or plan to come back a few times to enjoy all aspects of this brilliant festival.

Like I said the other week (and can now attest to), it’s not hard to see how an event like this could empty your wallet. Everything basically runs off of a cash system and there are plenty of cash machines located throughout the park for this reason. However, as most cards have fees for withdrawing money from these kind of machines, to keep from breaking the bank and avoiding fees, I suggest pulling out your spending limit of cash from your bank before heading out. Once you hit your limit, tap out of at least the spending portion of your evening. And don’t forget, it’s a free event to come and go as you please, so you shouldn’t feel the need to just spend money because you’re there.

When it comes to eating, you are mostly limited to walking around food, a nice option if you want to keep moving (it’s warmer and you get to see more!). If you want to sit down and enjoy some of your choices, there are areas throughout the park for this as well, including a bar located on a spinning carousel platform and what looked like a heated hut (which unfortunately was too crowded for me to actually take a closer look at.). From chocolate fountain stands (with three or four different chocolate fountain choices) to mulled wine and sausage stops, one thing I can definitely say is you’ll have your pick from a wide variety of options. Don’t feel like if you’re not hungry right near the entrance, you should buy something you’ll want later. There are duplicate food type stands throughout the park, not just the first few feet (that first thoroughfare, however, does present a lot of options). The only option that may be all by itself is the lone veggie stand I saw—they sell only veg, but it might be good to mix some of that with the rest of your pickings!

While wandering through these food areas, don’t forget to check into the booths between eateries for any gift items or souvenirs. From hats and glasses to Christmas decorations to nick-knacks, you have plenty to look through!

Last—but certainly not least—we’ll talk about entertainment. The park’s Winter Wonderland has the largest non-permanent, pop-up rides I have ever seen with a range that suits all ages. From rollercoasters to swings to fun houses, you’re sure to find something no matter who you happen to be spending the day with. If you do plan on indulging in this entertainment, don’t for get to stop by the ticket booths first (and plan that into your budget!). On the other hand, if you are more inclined to spend your time in a more classic holiday tradition, there are ice rinks you can skate the day away on or watch others enjoy (not all of us are skaters and that’s okay).

If you don’t want to spend extra money on your entertainment, but you don’t mind sitting and spending your money on more food and drink, you can head to one (or hop around) to any of the live band stages and sitting areas. There are at least four I counted throughout the park, so take your pick and enjoy.

There’s the rundown for you and if you’re around, Winter Wonderland is open until the 4th of January. Go out, have fun, be safe, and don’t forget to bundle up; it’s cold out there!

As always,

I’m Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Belated Winter Wonderland…

Local things to do…

Never seen that in the tour books!

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Science Museum Lates. Science Museum, London, England. October 2014.

Okay, some tour books will give you the skinny on local goings-on, all-year long, but, for the most part, they’re written to give information on how to get from one tourist stop to the next and which ones you just HAVE to visit.

In an earlier post, I talked about how to research local events when traveling (from local blogs or talking to people when you are out and about). This week, I’m focusing on just one of those sources.

This week I learned about (and went to my first) “Museum Lates” at London’s Science Museum. This is an adults only night event that takes place near the end of most months, featuring fun and educational talks, smaller events, and activities that center around the month’s given theme. This month was food and drink and we went to a lecture on whether we wash our hands too much (answer: no; most of us need to wash better and more!) and another on how much what your past-generations’ feeding habits have shaped you (answer: they’re still researching but it looks like a lot.). They also had stationary bikes you could ride which would power a blender to make your own yogurt smoothie and a table of proven “sex food” (go early or there will be no more chocolate!).

All in all, the event was successful (my friends loved that they walked away with containers of free yogurt as a goodie-bag, as well. When you are paying for grad school, we take all the handouts we can get!). Looking back at what was offered and the time we had, however, I’ve got some tips on how to make the most of your time:

  1. Go to the site and download or look at the offered programs, including the time they take place. If you want to go to talks, you’ll quickly discover that your time gets eaten away quickly, so knowing what is offered before you get there (and your “must dos”), will let you see and do everything you really want.
  2. Don’t put things off until the end of the night. When they say that they are ending an event at a specific time, they will end it then. They aren’t posting the time they cut off the cue. I really wanted to make my own yogurt smoothie but they had closed the line because they had to be sure that they’d finish and clean up before closing—no exceptions.
  3. Queue for talks. Don’t show up right at the time the lecture is scheduled to start and expect to get in. Space is limited in almost all the lectures and they give stickers that number the people in line (don’t just have someone save your space!) – once they’re out of stickers, you’re out. They’ll sometimes make an exception, but not for many. You will also probably sit on the floor at some point so think ahead clothing-wise. If they say they’ll be starting the queue in a few minutes, don’t walk away; they’ll probably start sooner than they say they will if people are showing up.
  4. Get to the museum before the start of the Late. There is a queue to get in (this seems like a major British past time, doesn’t it?), but it moved quickly and I haven’t seen people get turned away because of capacity. If you get in the queue early, you get in faster and you can see more of the museum and all the special programs offered.

The Lates get busy but they are great fun, and, with a little pre-planning, you’re sure to see much more.

Did I mention you can buy alcohol? It is, after all, all adults.

And for more upcoming local fanfare, a friend posted this local blog on social media, perfectly timed for this post, so check it out if you’re here in London or planning to be anytime from now to early December. Even if you’re not, it’s a good place to keep your eye on.

Until next week, have a very festive and safe Guy Fawkes Day and week!

Cheers!

I’m Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Local things to do…

Staycation:

making an adventure out of staying close to home.

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Zuma Beach, Malibu, California. April 2014.

This is going to be short this week. Most of what we’ve covered in this blog so far has had to do with traveling far and wide and, generally, for a good chunk of time, but this week we’re sticking closer to home.

Because I don’t think I’ve said, I live in the valley of Los Angeles county, California, about an hour outside of the actual city. This past week, I was off of work and able to really take advantage; get out of the house and away from my computer (a real struggle sometimes).

So, it’s time to head out. Locally. Oh, and of course, don’t forget your camera. Even close to home, your travel isn’t quite complete without a few tourist shots.

The point of a “Staycation” (a truly undervalued kind of vacation, if I do say so myself) is to break out of your usual routines and explore the areas that are close enough that you never actually go out and explore them, while saving you time and money as you don’t have to actually go very far. Basically, it’s taking the time to be a tourist in your own backyard. I doesn’t even have to be very far; an hour away or a days ride, as long as you get away from your life for a little bit, that’s all that matters.

But, what to do?

I live in Southern California but, honestly, theme parks like Disneyland aren’t touristy for me; they are simply one more thing to do in my area whenever I can, despite how family and friends from out of town tend to flock to these locations as touristy must-dos.

Instead, this break, my dad and I did half-day trips wandering the actual city parts of Los Angeles’ (and surrounding areas’) destinations rather than the artificial worlds created in theme parks.

One of the days we went hiking in Malibu for a few hours (saw some waterfalls) and spent the rest of the day at the beach. Going out to local areas like beaches and doing activities like hikes make you get away from your house and work and all the people you are constantly surrounded by. For me, this is a time when I turn my phone on airplane mode to really get away from life for a few days. Generally, these don’t cost you much except maybe parking, food and sunscreen; unless you pull an overnight and then motels are pretty cheap.

Another day, we went on a self guided walking tour through the city based on the movie “500 Days of Summer.” These kind of tours are easy enough to find (great ones are done through city conservancies and can be found through them) for many kinds of topics—movie, historic, music, ect.—and for pretty much any city you may travel to. Self guided equals actual free tours minus the cost of getting to your location, parking and basic daily needs and are generally pretty easy to navigate distance wise since it is expected that you walk from one site to the next. The fun part of these kinds of tours (and doing them close to where you actually live) is that most people would only consider doing them in areas they don’t live in or when they are guiding people from out of town so many people you know haven’t done them. I have lived near the city my whole life but, because of that exact fact, there are tons of places that I have only visited recently because riding the metro 40 minutes (another thing I rarely do as a LA valley dweller) or driving for an hour is never something I do just to go see the sites.

To get out but not alone or with the people you see everyday, there are ton of group meet ups (through sites like meetup) posted all over the web. These help you get out and meet people from your own greater or super local communities to learn or experience new things in your area.

Then there are the basics. Hit local monuments and landmarks. Go to museums and art galleries your usual life never leaves time to see. New parts of old cities are being found every day; keep your ear to the ground and visit unearthed history. Just go out and explore because if you don’t the tourist we usually come to resent as those people slowing down traffic or simply those feeding our local economy will come to cherish and know more about our homes than we do.

You should never feel too cool to be a tourist, even if you are within an hour of home,

Until next time,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Staycation:

This isn’t a PSA, but about your drinking…

… it’s something to think about. But seriously, it is.

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 Caerphilly Castle, Caerphilly, Wales. Summer 2013.

The thing about drinking (pretty much all the time, but especially if you are traveling and doubly so if you are on a budget), is that it can really throw a wrench into your plans if you aren’t thinking about it. I am not just talking about financially either, but that is a good place to start. FINANCIALLY, both at home, school, or on vacation, alcohol is a serious drain on a bank account. When you are on vacation, however, this can really take away form the rest of you budget (and do you really want to cut out food, shopping, or entertainment?). There are a few ways to cut down on this drain, however.

First, figure out the areas HAPPY HOUR. Sometimes, happy hour will mark down the price on both food and drinks. Saving on both of these will allow you to put more money into your other areas (or back into your drinking budget…) and there can be great people around during this time where drinks are cheaper. And of course, where there are more people, more entertainers may be out in these areas, too; cheaper food, drink, and free entertainment? That’s definitely something to look into. However, there are also dangers involved in the happy hour dilemma. Sometimes, the reason that drinks are cheaper during happy hour is because they contain cheaper booze or are simple well-drinks. Both of these lead to a higher chance of getting ill and/or a serious hangover the next day; basically putting a damper on that bit of your trip. This can be exacerbated as the lowered cost may lead you to drinking more. This not only adds up in cost (negating the reason for going to happy hour) but increases you chances at getting drunk (and the consequences of that). Personally, I stick with bottled drinks; they’re usually cheaper just like other drinks without changing their quality. Even at happy hour, if you are drinking mixed drinks, it is better to pay a little more for higher end drinks and nurse your drink a little longer, than drink more, cheap stuff.

Second, like we discussed on Walking like a local, being in a tourist area will seriously cost you. Go out of tourist areas and into LOCAL HAUNTS. I can’t say it enough:, tourism is a business and they get as much out of there customers as they can. Going out to where locals go instead; you’re less likely to be overcharged here and other local events tend to be centered around them, like a local band or traditional, cultural show. To find these haunts, you can use many of the tips on the post mentioned earlier.

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Duke of Kendal Pub, London, England. Summer, 2013. Photograph by Kevin M Gallagher (My dad!)

So, where besides financially can drinking harm your plans? Well, I have a few stories to explain the real “what if”s that can come from… over indulging.

In Galway, on a tour to go see the Cliffs of Mohr, we met a boy from our area who was the spitting image of a young Heath Ledger. We’ll call him SCOTT. While the trip was lovely and Scott seemed to enjoy his time running around each of the stops, the reason he was there was because of alcohol. As it turned out, Scott and his sister had spent the few days (or what sounded like the whole week) prior in a bit of a haze. Two days prior, his sister got on a plane to Stockholm, Sweden with the plan that her younger brother would join him the next morning. Instead, said younger brother was laid up in their rooms still drunk from the night before. While he was able to reschedule his flight with seeming little trouble, this isn’t always the case. Alcohol has the ability to make you miss parts of your already planned trip—parts that may not be able to be reimbursed or rescheduled—if you aren’t careful. In fact, if you aren’t careful, you could do much worse than simply miss some plans.

So now onto Dublin and a boy we’ll call COLIN. Colin was also a SoCal of about 19 years—not old enough to drink legally in the US but as a soon to be college sophomore, it was heavily implied that this was not his first rodeo. He was in Ireland researching the Irish famine for a grant paper which he planned to start after a few days of sight seeing. For his first night in town, he bought himself a four pack of 16 oz ciders which he polished off in quick succession. During this time, we—Colin, a 30 year old Aussie we’ll call Jaime, (for a short time, my sister) and I—sat around reading, talking and playing guitar. At about midnight, my sister was fast asleep in bed and the boys decided they wanted to go out.

There was a club quite literally around the corner from our hostile and after a bit of cajoling—and a note to my sister (Never go anywhere with strangers without leaving some kind of note, please. And never someone you aren’t comfortable with. I believe in being spontaneous and adventure happens when you push your limits but always make choices in the favor of safety!) –I agreed to join them. I am not a drinker, so even after paying the fiver—an entrance fee—I didn’t drink while we where there (except a sip of Colin’s Guinness to try—not my cup of tea. Another small PSA—I know I said this post wasn’t one but this feels necessary—never take a drink you haven’t seen poured or had your eyes on the whole time. I was at the bar and watched the drink from the bartender pouring to Colin holding to me sipping.).

Colin, however, did. We stayed in the club—more like a sweat box with wall to wall bodies, grinding—about an hour and a half at most. In that time, we had navigated from the first to the second floor, I had managed a few conversations, received a few compliments (despite my baggy jeans, tee-shirt and oversize satchel), a kiss on the cheek, one not so subtle “so, California, you know how to party”—apparently, I look like a drug dealer—and we had managed to loose Colin, who was—the last we saw about an hour in—at least two pints of Guinness and an offer to go to a party after with a nice group of girls he’d met and immediately bought drinks for. Jaime and I looked as best we could for him but by the time we made it too the other side of the rooms and the doors, we figured there was no way we’d find him. The last time we’d seen him, Colin was talking clearly, walking straight, and seemed to be doing fine. We weren’t far enough from the hostile to be worried… or so we thought.

At about 4 am, my sister and I woke to what sounded like plates shattering on the roof. I looked out the foggy window, but couldn’t see anything so we went back to bed.

We didn’t see Colin the next morning. We didn’t see Colin after our day exploring. As it turned out, we wouldn’t see Colin on our trip again (as Jaime explained via the girl at the front desk who exclaimed “Oh, you’re friends with THAT boy!”). As it turned out, at about 4 am, one very intoxicated boy named Colin stumbled back to the hostile, where he discovered he had managed to loose his key. Being intoxicated, he did not knock on the door and pay the fee for a lost key but grabbed a near by ladder and, placing it against the building (and breaking in one of the windows, hence, the breaking glass that woke us), proceeded to climb onto the roof.  As he tried to get in through one of the rooftop windows, inside someone else was calling the cops. When the police showed up, Colin concluded his night (and the future of his trip) by throwing roof tiles at them rather than come down. While we were hearing this story, Colin was sitting in a jail cell for his parents to be contacted and bail to be paid.

See, worse than missing a flight.

On a lighter note, there is one more drinking tale I’d like to share based on my sister’s drinking misadventures from our time in Edinburgh. Anyone who read my second post on lodging knows my love for the Bus Station Backpacker’s hostel. The owner and her trainee at the time took my sister and I—again, not big drinkers—to two or three pubs our first night in which ended with us halfway across the city with bladders full of a pint/pint and a half or cider each. It was a lovely night and none of us were intoxicated, so the four of us decided to walk back through the city, seeing the sites at night on the way. A few blocks from our final destination, the owner and I were commenting on how quickly the others were moving down the hill; if it were either of us, we would have fallen by now.

Upon reaching the hostel and descending the outside stairs, we found the door open and my younger sister standing pitifully outside the door. When asked what she was doing, the reply was simple, “I didn’t make it.” We asked what she hadn’t made and she explained that they were running for the bathroom and she “hadn’t made it.” And with that, her cheeks turned scarlet and her blue jeans turned darker. Once we collected our selves, I heard the other woman ask, “Sweety, why didn’t you just run in and do what you could.” My sister responded, making her the darling of the hostel’s owner, “I didn’t want to mess up the new carpet.”

The moral of the story, if you have to walk across town or really any distance from your final pub to the place you are staying, heed the advice of all parents everywhere and use the restroom before you leave, even if you don’t feel like it.

With love and laughs and hopefully some sound and useful bits of advice, until next time,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

This isn’t a PSA, but about your drinking…

Walking like a local…

…on foreign soil.

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Along the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland. Summer 2013.

Now that you have your pre-trip budget down and have a basic estimate for each of the days you’ll be traveling, you can look back at the locations you are going to visit. Looking at the list, you’ll probably notice one very distinct fact: most of them are probably marketed and manufactured for tourists. It’s simply the nature of the game. In fact, next week we’ll look into tour and those that are and are not really worth the cash you shell out for it.

But how do you get past skimming the surface of the places you visit and see the places that otherwise get overlooked?

Well, it starts simple (yes, here we go again) with research—this research will be a little different than what you’ve done before, however. Instead of just typing each of the cities you’ll be in into Google, start by looking into BLOGS, specifically blogs by locals or travelers who are living in area for a longer span of time (ie, a few months and up). They are more likely to know the local fare that will be going on and cool local places they frequent or have discovered. Then you can pin these to your Google map! You’ll want to save any of these sites as the information on events like local concerts and/or festivals will become more relevant the closer you get to your arrival at said location.

Next, research specific events rather than specific places. I’m from Southern California, so one thing I know happens throughout summer is music festivals. Someone who was traveling to my area could research “Los Angeles (or Southern California) Music Festivals” and find/get tickets/information to any of these events going on in their time here. If you Google an event type and the basic area you’ll be in, you will be more likely to find local ventures. You can get more specific in your search if your interests are place oriented. When my sister and I were planning our UK trip, it wasn’t until almost two-thirds of the way through that we realized one of the countries we were visiting was the same country our favorite band (McFly) lives and works in. We’d been able to see them play earlier in the year on there first tour of the US (though really only LA and New York), but seeing them again if we could was a must. We searched for the bands tour dates for 2012 and were able to find a “Day at the Races with McFly” happening in Liverpool for about the time we would be passing through the area. All we had to do was get the tickets and maneuver our plans on the surrounding days.

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My sister and I sitting in the rain for hours waiting for the McFly concert. Liverpool, England. Summer 2013.

But sometimes, more research isn’t the answer. Instead, ask around once you are there. When you are planning, you should never fill your entire trip. Busy is great and you’ll see a lot, but isn’t traveling more about what you experience, rather than what you were able to simply see? Tours that plan your trip tend to do this—fill up every second. When I visited Australia in the summer of 2004, I was a US Student Ambassador with the People to People Program. This meant I was corralled with a group of roughly 40 other students my age and five supervisors, moving from place to place by bus from Cairns to Melbourne. The trip was great; I saw and learned a lot and met tons of great people, but everything was structured and packed in. I was lucky; we only visited one country, while others I know visited a few and they had a lot less time and, inevitably, less fun. Instead of planning like this, leave time open so you can stop by a local cultural festival or street performance you would have otherwise missed.

Another option is exploring by foot once you get on the ground and heading away from the city center. Basically when looking at city planning and build up, city center will have a lot going on all the time. All roads lead here. Therefore, there will be tons to do but also lots of events manufactured just for tourists like you. Venturing away from this center, you are more likely to find local establishments from pubs and bars to music venues to bakeries and book shops. These are the places locals live away from the crazy and hectic city center. The pulse of a city can be found in its center but sometimes the soul can be found in the worlds that surround it.

So, until we go full tourist next week,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Walking like a local…