The Locked Groove Travel Edition
On beginners mind, cities, and avoiding Google Docs
Colin here. I was having a coffee with a friend of WITI this weekend, and we got to discussing travel and favorite places. We quickly realized that we had a similar problem: the “locked groove” effect of cities you frequent for work or for pleasure. I tend to have long-term affairs with places and am magnetically compelled to return often. The trick is not falling for the things you do every time, or settling into a comfort zone with repeat travel. For example, I’ve frequented Tokyo for the better part of 16 years. And in that time, you develop routines and familiarities similar to how you behave at home. The locked groove of stuff you know is great: hitting the Isetan Men’s in Shinjuku, the T-Site at Daikanyama, Star Bar in Ginza, Fuglen in Yoyogi, etc. Also: seeing your friends who are based there and key members of the creative ecosystem. But, the key to enlightened, smart travel is realizing this internal bias and creating counter systems to break out of the routine and find new things and meet new people.
Why is this interesting?
Tokyo is vast, and you could visit the place without ever seeing the same retail store, coffee shop, or bar twice. You could literally spend an entire lifetime lost in the city’s labyrinth. The sheer potential of things to do can be overwhelming, which is why it is easy to fall back on old favorites or stay within a comfort zone.
Even in less dense places that I frequent, I find the natural line of drift is to opt for the known coffee shop or the trusted hotel. But insights and inspiration come from trying new things and forcing yourself not to get comfy and really be a traveler. To do this, you need to do the opposite of what feels natural—turn away from that travel destination article that is circulating around, the reliable guidebook, or the peer-to-peer recs from friends that just got back. Open with a completely fresh slate, and use a beginner's mind to see a place. Some of the coziness and habits come from turning to what we know, but also our same old sources of truth. How many best-of Mexico City Google Docs have you been sent?
Somewhat relatedly, we are launching a new feature in WITI: Friday editions of Why is X CITY Interesting? We will have fans of a city argue a short case for why it is close to their heart, and give a few simple waypoints to help you understand it. It’s the opposite of these exhaustive guides—merely an impassioned personal narrative about why a new place (both known and obscure) deserves time in your future travels, and a few waypoints to pique the interest. There will be new lenses on some of the usual suspects, but also some unexpected twists. The challenge of pushing through the filter bubble of travel and the echo chamber of all the “must-dos” is a noble (and rewarding) one. (CJN)
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Would love to contribute for Rio de Janeiro!
my tokyo flow is 100% locked groove with 35+ years of visiting and never ever gets old and only gets more exciting. tokyo is by far the most vast city with something happening on every corner at all times. the best period.