Urban adventuring is my favourite kind of day trip
I leave for China in about two weeks (!), and it’ll be my biggest trip in three years. Three years without a major trip feels like a long time, but in the past couple of years I’ve enjoyed a different kind of travel: the urban microtrip. Without having the time or the resources to travel internationally or even nationally, I started intentionally planning little day trips within the city and outlying areas. I didn’t grow up in Vancouver, and most of my activities here have been concentrated in more or less the same area. I really want to get to know the city better, but without purposeful travel it ‘s easy to get locked into a relatively small geographical area.
Vancouver is a great place to microtrip for two reasons: it’s easy to get around without a car, and each area within the Lower Mainland has a distinct landscape—both physical and cultural. It’s the perfect place to take Sunday afternoon off, lace up your runners and explore the city.
I divide urban day trips into three categories:
Bust out a map and decide where you want to go. This is the “be a tourist in your own city” method. Choose a place you wouldn’t normally go to (maybe a prime tourist destination) and go for it. Sometimes I even incorporate a chore into this by purposely going to a pharmacy or post office that’s not in my neighbourhood.
For his birthday last year, I made my boyfriend a doughnut of the month club. I found 12 doughnut places in and around Vancouver and printed out little coupons for each one (so cute, right?). I made sure that they were spread out as much as possible and in neighbourhoods we don’t usually go to. This is a great way to discover new areas, support local businesses, and get a doughnut at the end of the trip. The themed trip could work for anything: book stores, thrift shops, swimming pools…. The last time I lived in China, a friend and I made a list of all the museums in the city and tried to visit one every weekend. It turned out that most of them were shut down, but in trying to find them we discovered some really cool places.
I actually haven’t done this in Vancouver, largely because I am very familiar with the transit system, but I did it a lot when I lived in China. This is the “get lost on purpose” method. Take a random bus and just see where it takes you. Sometimes you’ll end up just driving through an industrial park, but sometimes you’ll end up at a live rabbit market. I find this works best in new cities, if you have time to kill as tourist, or if you’re exploring a city you just moved to. The nice thing about basing your adventures on a bus route is that if you take a bus to a random location, you’re most likely going to be able to take the bus back to familiar territory (unless service terminates and you’re stuck—but then your urban adventure just turns into a hike).
My favourite thing about microtrips is that if you have the right attitude they can be genuine adventures. Thinking of them as journeys as valuable as the big trips we take is key. Because if we travel to learn, experience and grow, and not just to escape our ordinary routines, then the microtrip offers a nice compact package that can expand your knowledge of a city and still get you home in time for dinner.