When I’m on vacation, I like to liven it up with some out-of-the-ordinary activities. There’s only so much touristy stuff I can handle. Here are four things I do that could also make your travel more memorable.
Go to a sports event
This works best for foreign countries, or places where the locals are into a sport that’s not common back at home. Soccer is my first choice, though a trip to Australia would send me straight to an Ozzy-rules football match. During trips to Costa Rica and Iceland, jumping on the local soccer bandwagon helped introduce me to locals. Throughout my Costa Rica travels, I just had to bring up Saprissa (the most popular team) to break the ice with anyone and start a great conversation. During matches, entire towns would come to a standstill to watch the action. Join the locals, watch and cheer.
If I ever get to Ireland, I really want to see a hurling match. Some curling in Canada would also be awesome. And I’m dead serious – I actually think curling is really cool thanks to the movie Men With Brooms.
Sign up for a race
At home, I run half-marathon and 10K races. It’s great exercise and a good way to meet people. During my last trip to Iceland, I entered the Miđnæturhlaup. That’s Icelandic for “Midnight Run.” It actually starts at 10 p.m., but the sun still looks like late afternoon. The race was two three-mile laps through Reykjavik – the route went through the zoo, with a start/finish at the Laugardalslaug swimming pool. The race entry fee included entry to the pools and hot tubs, which is how all the participants unwound after the race. I was the first American finisher, by the way (not because I’m fast, but because of the dearth of Americans). During the race, I met people from all over Iceland and Europe. And I have a great medal hanging in the living room to remind me of the experience. I will make racing a fixture in any future vacation.
Eat something weird
If you’re afraid to eat local foods when you travel, you’re missing out on an enriching experiences. I’ve enjoyed many great foods while traveling, tasty tidbits that would appeal to any palate. But it’s the bizarre and unexpected foods I remember most: possum pie in New Zealand, camel schnitzel and exotic fruits in Australia and hákarl, the infamous Icelandic rancid shark meat. These make great stories for squeamish friends – and with pocket-sized camcorders and smartphones, you can even record the fun.
Try an odd local pastime
You might wind up in a place that has an odd idea of fun. New Zealand is the best example. There, you can load yourself into a 10-foot-tall beach ball and roll down a hill. This activity, called Zorbing, is possibly the most fun you can jam into 90 seconds. The country is also known bungee jumping, Schweebing (racing a pedal-powered suspended monorail), jet boating and many other really unusual activities. In Nicaragua, you can even sled down the slope of a volcano – this would definitely be on my list! And Costa Rica is filled with zip line tours – the Original Canopy Tour near Monteverde is spectacular fun.
New York Times (A Sport Erupts on a Live Volcano in Nicargua, April 19, 2009)