The San Diego Travel & Adventure Show is what you might expect from any travel expo. Travel agents promoting vacation packages. Vendors selling their wares. A Bollywood dance over here. A rock climbing wall over there. What I wasn't expecting was to receive an important message from the Travel Channel's very own Samantha Brown.
As I made my way to the show's Travel Channel stage where Samantha Brown was scheduled to speak, I soon realized that I would need to juggle the promotional bag from the Philippines booth and cup of coffee I just bought in the standing-room-only crowd. Clearly Ms. Brown draws an audience, but would it be anything I haven't heard before? I debated moving on to go get that churro I'd seen someone walking by with. Then decided to plant myself and listen.
She addressed the buzz words in travel right now, "authentic experience", and shared her five wise suggestions on how to maximize the learning and exploration that come with being in a new place or culture.
1. Don't spend time in the past.
Make sure your itinerary is not overrun with visiting every famous or historic site you've heard or read about. Be present for what is happening around you in that city TODAY.
2. Go for a walk.
Don't have a plan, don't have an agenda, don't have a timeline. Just go for a walk and let the surroundings unfold before you.
3. Never in the must sees. Always in the mundane.
This is where the unique, true colors of any place shine.
4. Create a ritual.
Go to the same coffee shop each morning. Get a glass of wine at the same cafe every night. Whatever you choose to do, creating a ritual helps you relax and feel more comfortable; better for absorbing the everyday goings-on with the people and place around you.
5. Talk to the locals.
They know what's going on in that neighborhood and when. You may find a great Irish pub for dinner but a local could tell you to go at 8:00pm when a popular local musician will be playing.
After being pulled in by her inspiring wisdom and honesty, I had my Samantha Brown epiphany; that I have been living these suggestions in my travels for the past year and a half. A gratifying realization that I am on the right path for me.
Thanks, Samantha Brown, for capturing my vote for best in show.