Maybe you’ve stayed just a bit too long in one city or your friends have abandoned you for other more awesome activities/people, so what are you to do with your time? Lucky for you, very few things are truly boring in a different country; here’s a list of ideas of things to do if you do (shock, horror) get bored:
1. Go to the cinema. Yes, this is something you could do anywhere but one of my favourite afternoons in Lviv, Ukraine was spent in the cinema. They dub almost all the movies there and rarely have foreign-language subtitles so my travel buddy and I chose a cheesy comedy we never would have watched back home: ‘Killers’, starring Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl. We found it hilarious to make up our own story as we had no idea what was actually going on (perhaps proof that it was actually more complex than we originally gave it credit? Nope. I watched it in English when I got home; it’s not a brilliant film). We ended up being those giggling girls in the cinema, so I apologise to anyone who was in the Kinopalas in Lviv on the 2nd July 2010. One interesting thing we did note: Ashton Kutcher sounds way sexier with his Ukrainian voiceover.
2. Take photos. If you thought ahead to bring your camera (and I really think you should) then you have a brilliant toy to amuse yourself with. I’ve been known to keep myself occupied on long car journeys just by taking photos. This is a tip used by travelling parents to keep their little brats quiet but a scavenger hunt can be fun, especially when you have someone else to compete with. Take photos of all the telephone boxes you see or funny street signs! Everywhereist also has a great post on ‘12 ways to make your travel photos awesomer‘.
3. Write postcards. Remember all those people you left behind? What better way to remind them that you’re having much more fun than them at this moment in time than by sending them a postcard?
4. Take public transport. Just hop on a bus or tram and get out of the city! Not only do you get to see a new place but you also get to experience a part of everyday life here. I find taking public transport in a foreign country can be a great experience in itself though it’s often made difficult when the ticket machines aren’t in English and for some reason I find it difficult to get my head around bus maps, even in London!
5. Learn the language. I’m not suggesting trying to become fluent or anything but it’s courteous to know at least a few words in the local language and it can be particularly rewarding when you flick through a dictionary and find that a rude word in English actually means something completely innocent in another language! When I was in France, whenever we raised our glasses and said, “chin-chin”, the Japanese guy we met kept giggling. It turns out that ‘chin’ in Japanese refers to male genitalia.
6. Find a McDonald’s. Obviously there is better local cuisine to be had but it can be amusing to look at the McDonald’s menu in another language. You’ll discover old ‘favourites’ but often you’ll see the McDonald’s version of a local dish.
7. Go to a supermarket. Supermarkets are great for seeing what food is really popular in a country and you’ll find some strange surprises. In Ukraine we found frozen squid, dumplings and other delights that you could take in a ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ fashion. Markets are also wonderful places for seeing all sorts of interesting things. In La Boqueria in Barcelona, there’s a shop which sells insects and a fellow traveller and I had endless fun asking what everything at the butcher’s counter was…one of the things we pointed at was a bull’s testicle – hilarity ensued as the butcher tried to explain it to us through the art of mime.
8. Go shopping for souvenirs. Because how else will you remember your trip? Have a competition as to who can find the gaudiest souvenir. The prize? They get to keep that souvenir…
9. Sit in the main square. Find the busiest area you can, be it a central square or a shopping mall, and park yourself on a bench (this is a particularly good option if you’re jetlagged/hungover). Watch the world go by and maybe you’ll notice some quirky habits the locals have.
10. Go to a bar. Do as the locals do and get yourself to a bar. Maybe you’ll find some like-minded travellers or perhaps some locals will regale you with tales that you won’t find in a guidebook. Have what the locals are having, just make sure you can still find your way home! This option also saves you having to figure out what to do the next morning as you’ll probably be lying in bed, nursing a hangover and wondering exactly what was in that shot last night.
So go, you have no excuse not to relish your time abroad. And make sure you keep a travel journal so that in years to come, you’ll remember all the crazy things you did.