Unlocking the city
Of course, seeing is only one way to connect to a place. At a busy restaurant, listening became an art form. I heard the beats of silverware and clinking glass; I eavesdropped on nearby tables and imagined using parts of overheard conversations as dialogue in a work of fiction. Taste, too, helps me to find a deeper connection while traveling. Discovering a new flavor or ingredient, and taking the time to slow down—to enjoy, to savor—is to show appreciation for the people who sourced and prepared it. And it’s this acknowledgement of people, this desire to better know and understand them, that has the greatest impact on our ability to connect.
Some travelers want to feel anonymous. They fall into the role of passerby or tourist because it’s easy and because it’s worked for so many before them. But all it takes to unlock a city is to talk to someone—make eye contact, ask questions, choose to connect. When we take time to meaningfully engage with the people who make up a place, we open ourselves up to unique and authentic experiences. Identifying and connecting with others is like being given a map of where to go next—and oftentimes it’s better than any that you would find in a guidebook.
left photo by Clem Onejeghuo
bottom photo by Roman Arkhipov