I recently moved to Valencia, Spain, for a month—a little crazy, right? Who jets off to Spain for a whole month? It’s hard enough to set aside two weeks of vacation time, let alone four. While my situation is not the norm, I have been relishing my month in Spain, and have learned a valuable nugget about how to enhance your travel experience: to really get to know a city, instead of just “visiting” there, go and live there for whatever time you have.
Here are a few ways that setting up a home base will enhance your experience in your next vacation spot.
Walking around Spain with a giant map, or with your eyes permanently glued to the Google Maps app, screams “tourist” and will prevent you from enjoying what the city has to offer in the moment. However, you will inevitably get lost at least once when you are exploring a city you have never been to before.
When living in a city, you have the opportunity to stay long enough to recognize where you are without using Google Maps. Or if you get lost for a moment, you will quickly recognize the next block. Even better, after a week in the city you won’t feel panic when uncovering new neighbourhoods; you will feel comfortable enough to love getting lost and confident enough that you will find your way home.
Renting an apartment for the duration of your stay is a great way to stretch your money a little further than you could if you were staying in a variety of hotels. With Airbnb, it’s easy to find a beautiful and unique space that feels just like a home away from home. Plus, when you rent an apartment with a full kitchen, you are able to shop for groceries, both saving money and allowing you to eat a little more healthfully throughout your trip—don’t worry, the restaurants are still around to indulge yourself when you need a treat!
Picking up and heading halfway around the world can take a toll on your body and your spirit. Sure, everything seems exciting and shiny at the beginning, but after a week of sensory overload, you will start to feel it. Indulging in a lot of late nights and too many restaurants will catch up to you. And so will the alienating feeling of being in a city where you don’t speak the language.
However, when you have a home base for a few weeks, it’s easy enough to implement a routine to counteract the feelings that can overwhelm you. Taking local language classes for three or four weeks will drastically improve your ability to speak with locals and feel a sense of connection. You may also want to join a gym to offset vacation indulgences and keep your daily routine consistent.
I truly believe it’s only when you really integrate into a city that you can start to discern the pulse of its unique pockets beyond what any Yelp article will tell you. You start to notice more and more corner cafés and neighbourhood hangouts. You register when they come alive at different times of the day, and you even start to recognize “regulars” that frequent the same favourite places you do.
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