As a traveler, we’re often pressured into loving absolutely everything about travel. Personally, I never want to come across as ungrateful or spoiled so it’s easier to talk about the good than to admit the bad. While I believe that there’s always something to enjoy – be it the food, culture, people, or nature – I’m also not terribly successful at sugar coating things.
It’s okay to not love everything. It’s okay to simply not vibe with a city. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable or feel like you don’t belong.
In the past, that’s exactly how I’ve felt about London. I’m not overly fond of big cities and, for me, there is nothing more hellish than going on the tubes. That comes from an intense mixture of a general dislike for crowds, a touch of claustrophobia, and being plagued with motion sickness (which makes me such a fun person to travel with).
I’m a grump sometimes. Everyone who knows me just smirked as they read that sentence because it’s painfully accurate. I’m a grump. So I was less than optimistic about my recent trip to London. Thankfully, instead of hiding my days away and grumbling about getting shoved on a tube, getting a cigarette burn on my leg from a passerby on the street, and the poor air quality, I put on my big girl pants and went exploring.
Boy, am I glad I did.
Those who love to travel don’t do so to only see the world. We travel to see different perspectives, to learn about ourselves, and to push our own limits to become stronger, braver, and more well rounded. I learned a few things about my grumpy-ass self in London and with my brand new insight, I have two main tips on how to enjoy a city that you don’t necessarily love.
Go On a Food Tour
I can not stress enough how much I love food tours. I love food tours. I LOVE THEM!
This is actually more like 5 tips in one. On a food tour, you have someone who knows the area walking around with you. You get to meet other tourists, talk to locals along the way, find the out the best things to see and do, learn about history and culture, get to know the area, learn some fun facts, and best of all… eat. Food is one of my most loved things about travel. How many tips was that?
Have I mentioned I love food tours?
I LOVE THEM!
My tour guide, Marc, was delightfully English, full of information, and even pointed out some Harry Potter spots to me. Bonus points! Mark started the tour fifteen minutes late because I can’t read maps and was waiting at the wrong location. Sorry, Marc! Thanks for waiting!
After telling us a bit of history and outlining the things we were going to see and do, we went to Borough Market and I was sold. I love markets. I also love food tours, in case I hadn’t mentioned that.
After my experience with London Food Tours, I was inspired to set out and find some more markets. You guys. There are markets FOR DAYS in London. In Camden, I decided to wander into a wee area with some street food.
It was not a wee area with a street food. It kept going. And going. And going. Camden is some alternate reality that everyone flocks to be different. How unique. Apparently if you go at the right time, you’ll see a man walking his ostrich because Cambridge.
While looking for a washroom (toilet, for all your Europeans who look at me funny for saying washroom), I was suddenly in a night club with hundreds of people dancing, waving their drinks in the air, and ankle flopping on their stilettos.
What is going on?! It’s the middle of the day!
One thing about London: it is ALWAYS Friday night.
I emerged from the market village an hour later with an overwhelming rush of excitement and a strong desire to be alone in a field for a few hours.
I found another Prince Edward Island sized market in Shoreditch where I found a Canadian poutine truck, food from every country in the world, and musical talent ranging from Jimmy Hendrix good to “oh my god someone cut the power” bad. What’s a market without variety?
None of that magic would have happened if I hadn’t gone on the London Food Tour. Go on a food tour. I’ve been doing this in almost every city I go too for a while now and it is the absolute best way to get to know a place. If I can fall in love with London, anything is possible.
My second tip is a bit more deep and targeted mostly at myself.
Get Over It
Don’t be a grump. Don’t let past experiences muddy your view of a place. Don’t make up your mind before exploring every alley, every viewpoint, and every delicious traditional meal.
Have you ever found yourself in a place you weren’t super fond of? What did you do to ensure you had a good time?
Me and London? We’re going to get along just fine.