Post by Chris Minor, Class of 2014
I can never understand why most people travel and tour the typical “out of the book” areas of a town or city. Maybe it is because it is often the easiest route or there are time constraints, but I think it is crazy to want to have the same exact experience as millions of other visitors. It may be the safety or the abundance of tourist resources of a main area, but just like in business, low risk yields a low return.
In 2012, I was interning at Iron Mountain Inc. in Boston and was fortunate enough to meet with the company SVP of Finance two weeks before my departure to the London School of Economics (LSE). He made time for me because he had completed a work study program in London during his college career and was eager to pass on some insight. He gave me one piece of advice that really stuck with me: Get Lost.
Throughout his travels and life abroad, he said he made it his goal to make an unparalleled experience wherever he went. In London, this included going on regular walks to less prominent neighborhoods and eating at those local restaurants and hanging out with residents at their pubs. He told me these were the kinds of experiences that gave him the best stories and memories. I was inspired to do the same with my experience.
My second weekend abroad was one of the most memorable during my entire year. Three friends and I went to London-Stansted airport with backpacks full of clothes for various weather conditions, and £200 (around $300). We went to the Ryanair desk and said “We will take the cheapest 4 flights ANYWHERE, but do not tell us where”. For £75 round trip, we had our destination.
A few hours later, we landed in Warsaw, Poland. The airport was a converted military base used prominently in WW2 and the Cold War. No one spoke English and Polish is often cited as one of the most difficult languages to speak properly. However, with the help of hand gestures and an excellent exchange rate to the Polish zloty, we made our 1.5hr trip to a place in the city called the “Oki Doki Hostel” where we were greeted by some of the most colorful employees and residents we had ever met. After conversing with these awesome people, we started roaming, exploring and “getting lost” for the next 48 hours before our flight home. The experience was incredible.
This trip set the standard for how I wanted to treat the rest of my adventures. Each destination, with safety in mind first, I would venture off in some way to do something out of the ordinary. Most of it is as simple as getting out of the tourist hubs and into a very local area. This is the type of travel I advocate more than anything else. Getting lost. As long as you are respectful and interested, the locals are often very amicable and willing to show you what their life looks like. The accumulation of these experiences is just as valuable an education as inside the classroom. The combination of these types of learning is what really develops your global understanding and makes you a more mature person in almost any setting. Not to mention stories that will last a lifetime.