Germany off the beaten track

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The Importance of Wandering Off the Beaten Track

Every new town or city I visit, I make a point of allowing myself time to wander.

 For me, wandering is essential.

When I truly let myself wander, I have enough freedom to truly experience the place.
Because if you restrict your experience to staying in your hotel or to just going to "suggested" spots around a city, you risk not getting the full picture of the place.

Sure, you will have Facebook pictures to show for having been there...but will you have REALLY experienced the place? Really? If you are being honest with yourself?

Too few people take the time to wander off the beaten track.

Personally, I cherish experiencing a place organically -- through its smells, its sounds, its people. So, I always cherish those first moments spent finding my footing in a new place. On my own. Breaking away from any group, I try to spend at least a few moments -- ideally a few hours -- just taking it in, with all of my senses.

Those moments getting to know locals, getting lost, then finding my way again. Those moments are priceless. As are any moments spent just wandering, or even just lingering, just for the sake of it. Like those moments slowly meandering along the river in W
ürzburg, admiring the fortress' reflection. Like those moments learning more about Carnival from the owner of a cozy Mainz wine tavern. Or like those moments browsing the shelves and listening to local chatter in Augsburg as you tuck into a random shop to warm up.

These moments wandering off the beaten track often become my most treasured moments. And they are what fuel my enjoyment of travel.

It is also why I generally prefer visiting lesser known places,
rather than choosing the main cities everyone already knows. In Germany, for instance, when I'm headed to Bavaria, I take a mere extra 30 minutes and head to Augsburg instead of Munich. Or, instead of heading to Berlin, I find my way to Potsdam, its elegant and historically rich "suburb." And when I need to be near Frankfurt, I bypass it for the friendlier little city of Mainz, only 10 minutes away from Frankfurt by train.   

Perhaps G.K. Chesterton stated it best: “The traveler sees what he sees…the tourist sees what he has come to see."

I know which one I am. Which one are you?

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