I love traveling the world with families and friends, but I also love exploring on my own and have had lots of practice doing just that with my job as a flight attendant.
1. Research it first: I’ll use free tourist maps from hotels/airports because they simplify a city to it’s main streets and attractions. This big picture knowledge allows me to walk with purpose and confidence, and helps prevent me from getting too lost as I wonder.
2. Know where I am and blend in: Once I’m out in the city, I never use a physical map because it targets me as a nonlocal. Instead I use my phone, which helps me blend in.
3. Stay in crowds: Regardless of the time or locale, if there are a bunch of people out and about (tourists, business people, commuters, families, etc.) everything’s usually okay. Conversely, I know I’m most vulnerable walking alone on an empty street.
4. Be aware of my surroundings: As I walk down a street, I assess conditions of buildings, streets, people, sidewalks, litter, etc. to see if the area is overall maintaining, improving, or deteriorating.
5. Follow my gut instincts: Exploration is inherently about being tuned in, and by trusting my gut instincts I’ve met fascinating people and had unique experiences that I would have otherwise missed out on. On occasion, I’ve also chosen to avoid individuals or specific places by crossing the street, turning direction, or ducking into a store.
6. Document explorations as I go: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, etc. are not only great for memories, they’re time-stamped archives that can be used to help locate me in the event of an emergency. I try to post hourly when I’m on my own. Sometimes, I’ll go old-school and call a friend to let them know when I leave and when I get back.
— Laura Rowley