How To: Explore Foreign Cities

Here at TETON Sports we tend to be all about the great outdoors, mountains, trails + dirt. We love all of those things, obviously. That said, there is a lot you can learn within the asphalt of a big city. Especially a foreign city. If you’re given the opportunity to roam a foreign city, do it! Give up a day or two in the wilderness to find history, wonder + culture in a big city.

Here are a few tips to get you started using Munich, Germany as an excellent example…

Wander [Sorta] Aimlessly

Even if you’re a planner, give yourself a little freedom to roam a city without an agenda. In Munich you can buy a one-day or three-day train pass that will give you access to the entire city for less than $5USD/day. With this train pass you can head out into the concrete jungle picking your destinations as you go.

With a little help from Google Maps you can quickly find a plethora of “points of interest” near any given train station. This does require some public transportation mastery, especially if you’re from a smaller town + have never had to read train maps. Before you head out take a little time familiarize yourself with the maps, stop names + general flow of traffic within the train stations. This sounds rather complicated, but don’t be afraid to watch those around you + ask questions whenever you need to.

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Quick Tip: It’s okay to be confused + move more slowly as you wander, just be aware of those around you. Watch those around you to learn the flow of the city + move out of the way when taking photos or doing research on your phone.

Eat Adventurously

You will find many new foods in foreign cities, some that the country is known for + others that are local favorites. Eating out on the regular may not be in the cards if you’re traveling on a budget, but give yourself at least one opportunity to splurge! Quite frankly, you’ll have the best luck with finding great local eats when you ask…the locals. Ditch Yelp + Google Reviews + all that other jazz. Instead seek out a human who knows the area, ask where they’d take a visiting friend + what type of food they’d quickly flaunt.

Once you’ve found the place slow yourself down + take it all in. Each culture has a few quirky ways, especially when it comes to the public consumption of food. Rather than be frustrated if it doesn’t meet your standard expectations, sit back + observe how it’s an integral part of the area you’re in.

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Quick Tip: Don’t completely write off the internet when getting tips for places to eat, just use it with some reserve. While in Munich we got some awesome recommendations for traditional meals + local favorites via Instagram comments + DMs!

Seek Out History, Or Art, Or Culture, Or…

This bit here will vary a lot by what you’re personally into. We say this because we’re not exactly art fanatics so waiting in line to see the Mona Lisa while visiting Paris wouldn’t be a very fulfilling use of our time. Don’t feel pressured to follow anyone else’s checklist, but definitely put some effort into the history, culture or art of the area. Even if you aren’t into famous artwork…if the opportunity presents itself, go for it!

While in Munich we didn’t have a lot on the agenda simply because we only had about 48 hours to explore. Yet, when the opportunity to briefly tour Dachau, the only concentration camp within the borders of Germany, we made it work. It wasn’t the most uplifting experience possible, but it was history. It also gave us an opportunity to see the determination created by the will to live.

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Quick Tip: Take the world up on the opportunities it offers you + get what you can from the experience. The visit to Dachau left us feeling heavy-hearted, but inspired to do better. We also left with a list of books to read, because we all have a need to understand human choices + emotions.

Be A Tourist!

Now, this one might seem obvious…but some of us struggle with this. You’re in a foreign country + you’re human. It is quite literally not possible to become an instant local [contrary to what all those spy movies show us!]. Take pictures of the architecture. Ask a stranger to snap a shot of you on a cobblestone street. Fumble your German in an attempt to get recommendations. Accept help when a local catches staring at a train map with confusion + fear. It’s okay, you’re not expected to fit.

It sounds [+ feels!] scary to be vulnerable in a foreign land, but the best way to get the “local experience” is to give a local the opportunity to befriend you. They won’t know you’re a tourist unless you flounder a bit…so give them the opportunity to help ya out! Of course, be smart about this! Do some research about the culture, always trust your instincts + respect the day-to-day life of the non-tourist!

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Quick Tip: Even in countries where I clearly stick out as a tourist, I am uncomfortable being an obvious tourist. Maybe it’s the touristy part of the Colorado Rockies I all home, but I’m always afraid to annoy the locals. Abandon that fear + instead [respectfully] give them opportunities to show off the chunk of the world they are proud to call home!

Of course, these are all just a few quick tips to get you started with foreign city exploration. Let them be the first stepping stone, then start running with whatever works best for you. Get yourself out there + give yourself a chance to explore the big cities, intense wilderness + amazing cultures of the world!

About the Author

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Heidi Kumm

Heidi Kumm is a trail runner, world traveler, mountain climber, and all around adventure enthusiast. She is so stoked on adventure that she has made it her career as the owner of Adventure Feet First, a travel company that focuses on getting people outside to explore the world around them. Over the past years Heidi has spent months living abroad, volunteering around the world, living out of a van/car/truck, and finding new ways to explore on foot, by bike, or with a backpack. She has learned the ins and outs of self propelled exploration the hard way, so she's here to help us learn from her mistakes and to help us become more informed on how to make your own mistakes, safely.