There is one behavior when traveling that I’ve found is essential to staying safe, and productive, in any foreign setting: having a sense of purpose. When traveling on the streets with a solid idea of where to go next, I find that it prevents me from fiddling with my phone or my guide in the middle of a busy street. Apps like Google Maps have helped me to keep a move on with features like offline maps and dictation of the directions through headphones. Not only is looking like a tourist unfashionable (fashionability in London is a must!), but it can prove to be impractical when I find myself too distracted. For me, it all comes down to the attitude you communicate to other people. Appearing helpless can be an invitation for the kindness of some, but also an invitation for trouble from less charitable people.
That being said, it’s not always such a bad thing to find yourself wandering around. Just pretending like you know where you want to go next is enough to be able to walk with purpose. And let’s face it: in this age of technology, it’s highly improbably to find yourself truly lost. Sure, I’ve found myself going down the wrong street by accident, but my phone has been pretty good at setting me back on the right track. Besides, it’s the perfect opportunity to discover something unexpected and interesting. There have been countless instances since arriving to the UK where simply walking aimlessly has landed me in what sometimes turned out to be incredible places. It still happens all the time in Norwich, and I’ve lived here for over three months now! When I am really lost and don’t know where to go next, I stop into a café or move to the inside of the sidewalk so I can avoid being in other people’s ways as well as preventing myself from appearing vulnerable.
When I first arrived to Norwich, I took an impromptu trip alone to a coastal town in Norfolk County called Great Yarmouth. This was a trip with no itinerary whatsoever but to see the North Sea. It was built entirely on the intention of walking east and maybe stumbling along some interesting sights along the way. Sure enough this is exactly what happened. More recently, I took a day trip to York during my stay in Leeds. With the incredible kindness of my host family, I had plenty of recommendations on what to do and see during my day there. Still, I am not one for making my own set schedule, so I did often find myself wandering in between stops. It was during these mini jaunts that I found myself in some of the most memorable and beautiful of moments during my trip. Sometimes something as simple as walking through a park and soaking up the sun can mean the world.