Great Tips for Doing Nothing

“The sightseeing tourist will visit all the attractions but the explorer will discover their own”

Sightseeing at dusk in Dusseldorf, North Germany on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-16

The attraction of city exploring

Sightseeing; the milka cow at the Lindt chocolate factory and museum in Cologne, Germany on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-24

Ambling across a chocolate museum

 At the risk of appearing the laziest traveller on the planet I’m going to confess my fondness for doing nothing. In reality it’s doing nothing in particular, in other words exploring a destination without a particular plan. This suits my philosophy of travelling, preferring to explore rather than follow a strict itinerary of landmarks and museums or activities that must be experienced.

Sightseeing on the River Rhine in Dusseldorf, Germany on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-15

Allow signposts to be the guidebook

It is also the antithesis of a media trip which due to the promotional nature of the visit require an activity packed itinerary. Clients need to show attending media as much as possible therefore starting early and finishing late is the order of the day. Time is of the essence and little time is to be wasted.

Sightseeing surprises; Moonlit crucifixes in a church in Xanten, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-9 (2)

Magical sightseeing experiences

Those that are require every detail of their trip to be planned and blaze around a destination like a blur with guidebook in hand will not understand ‘ambling sightseeing’. Their intention is not to miss a single worthwhile sight and often follow a strict timetable like in National Lampoon’s Family Vacation. There is minimal time to waste as the next attraction needs to be ticked off. In fact little matter, they probably haven’t the time to read up to this point.

Sightseeing at the Xanten Archaeological Park in the Wesel district of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-7 (2)

Surprises even in Germany

Readers with an open mind and a freedom of spirit however maybe prepared to experience sightseeing differently and tempted to read further. Hopefully few are genuinely enslaved to guidebooks but most probably use them to research or help them navigate around a destination. Try ditching them altogether for a change, it is a surprisingly liberating experience.

Here are a few tips for travelling without a plan:

Visit a destination which is unfamiliar

Book a long weekend in a city or destination that is completely unfamiliar. The shorter the period of time between booking and departing the better, leaving less time to be tempted to research. If the destination is one which the visitor is unaware of then the attractions will also be unknown. Travelling without any preconceptions, on totally unfamiliar ground will require some exploring to find something worthwhile to do.

Sightseeing in Dusseldorf, a street mural on the side of a building on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-5

Finding some colour in Germany

Don’t do any research

This will only work if the destination remains unknown, avoid doing any research prior to leaving or even during the trip. Don’t buy or use a guidebook or visit the tourism office. Purchase a map just in case but keep it out of site in the bottom of the pack, only to be used when absolutely necessary. Avoid anything which may provide any clues, don’t even peek at postcards.

Be anti-social

This is a little more difficult especially if staying in a hostel where people are often friendly, open and willing to chat with other travellers. Hotels are typically less personal so it is easier to remain anonymous. The best way to get round being totally anti-social is to start any conversation by explaining the motives behind the trip, this will avoid any helpful suggestions of places to visit.

Sightseeing by public transport in Duisburg in Germany on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300 (2)

Sightseeing on public transport in Europe is easy

Take a random public transport ride

Before boarding a tram, bus or local train flip a coin to choose the direction and then pick a number lower than 10. This will decide the stop at which to disembark; randomly. I can hear the thoughts of the avid planners now “but I won’t know where I am then”…… exactly! A good sense of direction is useful and being confident in location finding with the aid of a map is essential.

Take a walk along a river or canal

Most large cities are dissected by a waterway, it is possibly the reason the conurbation was built in the first place.  Take a stroll through the city it shouldn’t be too hard to find some water then follow the river or canal. Often there will be a number of worthwhile stopping off points along it’s path. Pubs and shops,, maybe a museum, a little further out small villages and even farms can be found.

An attitude for adventure can take a traveller a long way, give these recommendations a try and really explore a destination. Be prepared to walk, take some wrong turns being required to double back but it is all part of the excitement of not knowing what lies ahead. It is one of the few ways to experience exploring in the modern era. Use the same attitude when dining out, don’t seek recommendations other than the popularity of a restaurant. Plenty of diners usually signifies good food.

A swollen River Rhine in Duisburg, Germany on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-4 (2)

Ambling sightseeing along the swollen River Rhine

Be prepared to waste sometime, not every path will lead to something exciting, maybe not even every city has much to see, this is the risk of course. An open mind, good observation and inquisitive nature will normally mean that most trips will not be wasted and a variety of places of interest will be discovered.

Sightseeing and finding a coffee shop in Cologne, Germany on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300

Ambling sightseeing can turn up some cool coffee shops too

This manner of sightseeing in a city or destination will not suit every traveller, it requires letting go of any hang-ups and just wandering without any a specific aim.

Industrial Duisburg on the banks of the River Rhine in North Germany on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-2 (2)

Following the setting sun in Duisburg

The final tip for those that would be kicking themselves if once home discovered the ‘must visit’ attraction had been missed. After spending a couple of days ambling sightseeing purchase a map or guidebook and spend the last day ticking off any attractions which were missed.

*All these images were taken during several days of ambling sightseeing in Northern Germany. Randomly visiting the cities of the Rhine.

Sightseeing at the Nordbrücke (North bridge) Rhine in Düsseldorf, Germany on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

No bridge is too far

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Comments 18

  1. John Williams

    This reminds me of when I was a young boy in school. I was caught talking with a friend in class. He demanded to know what I was talking about and when I answered “Nothing” he ordered me to write a 1000 word essay on the subject “Nothing” by the next day!
    In an age of diminishing resources, I personally wouldn’t adopt this approach for any location I have travelled a long way to see. I do use it a lot for locations on my doorstep or for places I am staying for extended periods. But how others travel is up to them. If someone wants to fly 10,000 miles long haul to a strange destination without even reading a blog post, looking up some Flickr photos or whatever, then moving around randomly not even knowing a word of the local language, then that is their prerogative.
    Then the final paragraph reads after all this resort to conventional tactics and rush around with a guidebook for one day trying to get in all the places you have missed and might regret. My preference would be to do research beforehand as travel is consumption to me and I feel a responsibility to consume wisely. At the latter end of my stay I adopt the random wandering approach, but by then I will have had a better idea of the local culture and how to respect it through actions, dress sense and polite use of language.
    If I arrive in a place with a camera, no clue what to expect and a few hours to kill, lIadopt this strategy I got this from a photography handbook many years ago. Pop into the nearest newsagents / postcard shop and browse through the postcards. If there is a view, building or structure that catches your eye you can always seek it out before you leave.

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      Iain

      Hi John, thanks for commenting, I do hope your 1000 word essay was successful in getting you out of trouble?

      I totally agree with you and say as much in the post, this travel style will not suit everybody. I feel confident enough to be comfortable arriving in any culture, alien or otherwise and by being observant and respectful will be able to move around safely and without upsetting the local customs.

      However I did not mention at all having to rush around on the final day. Any reasonably competent, observant and inquisitive individual will discover the majority of attractions within a few days. Therefore there will be little missed and only one or two major sights will need to be visited. You also use long-haul as an example, to me this method of sightseeing is even more suited for long-haul travel. It is unlikely many will take a long flight or journey to only stay in a destination for a couple of days. This means they will have a couple of weeks to explore, more time to take a relaxed and ambling method of sightseeing. It is even less likely that the observant or inquisitive traveller will miss much.

      Anyway the bottom line is it works for me, may work for other free spirited travellers and sometimes leaving the guidebook behind, just exploring using your own nature to find worthwhile sights can be liberating.

      1. John Williams

        Iain, I understand the process and do use it myself. It does require either a certain amount of research beforehand or experience of most cultures in the world to feel as comfortable with it. As you are to adopt this method as freely as you do. You are talking as a wise person who has extensive travel under their belt. Of course the ‘Book a long weekend..’ bit threw me a little. With a slow travel approach there is never any need to regiment your exploring. Slow / Extended Travel once discovered makes going back to fixed itineraries feel like a retrograde step.

        Neither am I advocating a clueless approach using a guidebook to compensate. Research beforehand not only allows you to leave the guidebook in your hotel room, but is also half of the enjoyment of travel to many people.

  2. Jennifer

    Great tips! Nothing drives me nuts more than the people that have go follow the Rick Steve’s guide to the T. Be adventurous! See something not every SINGLE person sees!

  3. Sand in my Suitcase

    Great post! We often like soaking up the atmosphere of a place by simply parking ourselves at an outdoor cafe and watching the world go by while sipping a latte. And some cities are perfect for getting lost in – like Venice. It doesn’t matter where you go, it’s all marvellous (indeed, you want to get off the main walkways and squares – the further away from the tourists, the better!).

  4. Johnny

    Interesting. This is very much my insights, too. I feel like planning takes away the thrill and adventure of what travelling should be. Although, if I don’t really know the country, I do some pre-trip research, not doing that can be a challenge I can do some time!

  5. Annette Gendler

    When visiting Vienna or Paris, I was always secretly happy when the weather was bad, giving me license to while away entire days sitting in cafes, watching people, enjoying the food and atmosphere, writing postcards or scribbling in my journal. Plus I got some R&R as I wasn’t running around like a nut.

  6. Paul

    This is perhaps one of the most on point posts that I’ve read on a travel blog in relation to the way that I like to travel. People often say to me “what do you like to do on holidays”, and my response is generally – discover great places to eat and just walk around. Don’t get me wrong, there are always a few things that I know that I want to see, but there’s nothing better imho than just walking around, talking in the vibe of a city, and allowing your self to become immersed in it.

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      Iain

      Thanks Paul I find this a great way to just explore a place and find out for yourself what is it is about. It’s rare that anything important is missed and I’ve never regretted this method of exploring. Good to know I’m not the only one.

  7. Leslie Floyd

    Iain,
    LOVE this article…your photography leaves my jaw dropped (but that’s the truth for all of your posts). I love the tip on being “anti social.” Too funny. This is such a great spin on your typical travel advice 🙂

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      Iain

      Thank you Leslie, as can be gleaned from the comments it’s not everybody’s cup of tea but then I knew it wouldn’t be. Just feel it might appeal to some, not on every trip even but if in a particularly adventurous mood and feeling the need to explore. Glad you enjoyed it and thank you again for the kind words regarding my kodak moment habit 😉

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  8. fred mucai

    I like your philosophy of travel because it is spontaneous. If you visit with an itinerary, you are more of a researcher and you do not get to enjoy the un-choreographed events that make lasting memories

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