I was going to call this post "6 Things I Learned In Philadelphia", but these tips aren't specific to Philadelphia. They're more about travel and life in general. And I didn't necessarily LEARN these things. They're more like LESSONS. And sometimes you have to repeat lessons over and over, in cities all over the world, before you actually learn them.
1. Eat enough food and plan your next snack and meal
Getting hangry is always a bad experience and can dampen the whole day. I've come to accept that I can get pretty cranky when I'm hungry. But when all the right conditions align (hunger + feet hurting from walking + frustration at crowds of people + exhaustion from heat), the hangry intensifies. The lesson here is to: have enough to eat, plan where your next snack and meal are coming from, and lastly - EAT BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE! One afternoon while we were exploring Philadelphia, I had my snacks with me, but I waited too long to eat some. Suddenly, I was hangry and I had to immediately scarf down a Clif bar. And I didn't even enjoy it.
2. Sit around for awhile
It’s not necessary to be go-go-going all the time, moving from one place and activity to the next and never pausing. Take time to just sit in one place for awhile. I remember more about the places where we sat for more than 10 minutes. Hanging out slows you down and gives you the chance for more people-watching, eavesdropping, and solidifying a memory :)
3. Ask for what you want
When we borrowed bikes from our hotel for the day, they immediately rolled out road bikes, even though the advertised bike in the window was a cute little cruiser. I just figured the window bike was for display only and didn’t ask if they had that kind available to borrow. I suffered through a shortened afternoon of bike riding on a road bike that was too tall for me with too hard of a seat. We had to change our plans because the bike was painful for me to ride! Later in the day, we saw some ladies returning a couple of the cute cruiser bikes. They had those available all along! I blamed the hotel for not asking us what kind of bikes we wanted, but really - I should have just asked. Like my mom always used to say, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."
4. Don’t wear shoes that hurt
How many bandaids and scuffed up toes do I need to endure before learning this lesson? At least I brought 2 pairs of shoes so I could alternate between the types of pain. Sandals = skin rubbed raw, while sneakers = blisters. Now, after this trip, I'm in the process of donating/selling all my evil shoes and investing in ones that don't hurt.
5. Take more pictures than you wanted to. Take too many pictures.
Time and time again, I wish I would have taken more pictures. I did pretty good in Philadelphia, though, and I credit the fact that I wore my DSLR around my neck the entire time we walked around. Sometimes I hate doing that because it makes me look like a tourist, but it's the only way that I can guarantee I'll have my camera ready enough to snap some pics.
6. Even a bad drawing is better than none at all.
Before this trip, I got really excited about travel sketching by reading An Illustrated Journey, featuring pages and pages of artists' travel sketchbooks. I had this vision of being an awesome traveler, sitting in cafes and drawing people on the street. But that's not my nature at all. I get anxious and nervous about people seeing me, and second-guess all my drawing skills. But I did manage to do a few scribbles in my sketchbook. And they're crappy and kind of wonderful. (I used some of my sketches as overlays on these photos!)
Travel is a unique teacher of life lessons. Being away from home forces you into strange situations and intensifies all feelings and emotions, leaving a bigger impact. Sometimes it's rough, but I know no better instructor. Travel on!