Mini Adventure – Go on a Free Walking Tour of your city (either organized or not)
Price –> FREE (5-10$ tip)
Excuses – time and mobility (?)
Time –> a couple of hours once
I If you are unfamiliar with the concept of FREE walking tours, it is quite simple. Tour guide companies will organize 100% free tours in cities around the world, with locals and knowledgable guides, showing you the most significant spots of historical or cultural value.
The tour guides tend to be as good as any “paid” tour guide out there and there is usually a donation or tip at the end. Since most of the tour guides, dependent on tips to provide for their families, they tend to be a lot more attentive to their guests and try to offer memorable experiences.
While that may sound great to some of you, I know you are thinking, why would I want to do that in my own city? Don’t I know it well enough already?
While I can’t speak for everyone, I think there are plenty of types of people that would enjoy walking tours….
- people that prefer to stay in their own city or country and don’t like long journeys
- people that are preparing for big overseas trips and want to get a taste of what it’s like to travel
- history enthusiasts
- architecture enthusiasts
- social butterflies that are keen to make new friends
- people that want to see their city with new eyes
So, I probably fall under most of these categories and I am generally a fan of being out and about.
The company I went with is called Auckland FREE walking tours and they walk from Thursday to Sunday every week. Tours start at 10 am and last approximately 3hours.
So, why should you give it a go?
You Will Learn About New Spots
It doesn’t matter if you are a local or a newbie, a walking tour is an opportunity to go down alleyways you hadn’t even known existed and stop in front of cute shops that will become your go-to lunch place.
In the age of smartphones, stress and deadlines, it is not often we pause on the street to take in our surroundings. We walk fast and decisively, looking ahead or down on our phones. We may walk by the park every day on our way to work but seldom look at the trees around it or read the inscriptions on the statues.
While there are plenty of other types of tours, cycling, train, bus… a walking tour means everyone goes nice and slow with time to reflect. There is also no competition over window seats. Win-win situation!
For those that may love travelling and visiting new places, this is also a great opportunity to realize that you don’t have to go very far to find out new things. We tend to disregard our hometowns as places where little things of interest happen, but you soon realize that is not true.
People from all over the world have travelled to see something you have at your fingertips every day. It really puts things into perspective!
You Will Meet New People
This may either be your favourite or least favourite part of the experience. Free walking tours as previously mentioned bring in a diverse group of people from all corners of the earth.
In my recent walking tour, I chatted to a lovely girl from Turkey that now lives in Holland, another Dutch woman, a family from China, quite a few Australians and a few university students from the States. And that is just a few of them.
A big part of travelling is meeting new people, having exciting new conversations, exchanging stories and learning more about each other. So even within your own city, you are this way able to have the opportunity to meet new people and bond over a drink, a walk or a museum visit.
While I was different than most, in that I had a place I call home in this city, I was still able to partake in the experience. There was nothing to stop me from meeting up with my new friends and having an enjoyable night out in Auckland. If one of the girls I met wasn’t leaving later that day, I probably would have too!
You Will Be Better Prepared For Similar Experiences Overseas
There is nothing inherently scary about walking tours, meeting new people or making friends. But it is a process that often brings with it anxiety and stress. People are afraid of going alone and having nobody to talk to, or are scared to ask someone they had a good chat with if they want to grab coffee later.
Since this is one of those things where practice makes perfect, the more you put yourself in situations where you become comfortable with meeting new people the more natural it will feel. It is a great practice opportunity if you are soon leaving the nest for the first time and are scared of how you would cope without your friends and family.
So, let’s briefly talk about the lessons of this mini-adventure.
Apart from factual learning, there are some general lessons about this mini-adventure:
- Walking around the city aimlessly for 3 hours is great exercise, clears your head and feels amazing (reached 18,000 steps that day)
- Going out of your way to talk to people that seem interesting, means you will learn cool stuff and feel cooler!
- Free walking tours are a great value for money, but remember to tip!
Would I recommend the tour?
This was a very informative tour and one that I can recommend to all visitors to Auckland. (My guide was Louise, tell her hi from the Greek girl). Did I mention she was also half Greek? In a country of only a few thousand Greeks, this was actually a bit of a happy surprise!
Have you ever thought of joining a free walking tour in your city? Why yes, why not?