Are You a Tourist or a Traveler?
The best of Berlin can never be captured in a list of top-10 to-dos. Millennium City is constantly changing – that awesome club you dog-eared in your guide was shut down last week due to a code violation. How can any tourist keep up with this city?
The answer is simple – abandon the ways of a tourist and evolve into a traveler. Travelers demand more than the traditional tourist experience, disregarding prefabricated lists and pursuing more out their vacations than hotel loyalty points. Travelers make each city they visit a temporary home, living amongst the locals, paying attention to the unwritten, and committing to making their latest vacation an adventure to remember. Still not sure what the difference is between a tourist and a traveler? See below.
Typical Tourist Friday Night: Making your way to a highly recommended bar which turns out to be a tourist trap, complete with a smoke machine and seizure-inducing strobe lights. You are totally frustrated because there was a long queue and a 9 euro cover. The mixed drinks are 8 euros apiece, and you are pretty sure that some dodgy bloke stole your phone.
Traveler Friday Night: You end up in a small cafe full of couches and totally kitsch décor. You walk up to the bar and pay 2 Euro for a glass and proceed to drink as much as you want of whatever kind of wine they have on hand. After a night of inspiring conversation with artists, hipsters and the casually employed, you return your glass and are ask to donate the value of what you drank. You had about 5 glasses and drop in 10 euros. Not a bad night.
Typical Tourist Saturday: You spend your Saturday walking up and down the Kudamm window-shopping because you honestly can’t afford anything. To prove that you’ve been there, you take pictures outside the expensive designer stores and return to your well-situated hotel to tag yourself in said pictures on Facebook.
Traveler Saturday: You spend hours in charity shops, thrift stores and flea markets searching for vintage designers and one-of-a-kind pieces. You happen upon a great shop which charges by the kilo and you ransack the place. Your girlfriends back home will be totally jealous of your vintage Chanel jacket. SCORE!
Typical Tourist Sunday: You end up paying 30 Euros for a brunch buffet at your hotel. You aren’t sure what to do on Sundays because the hotel concierge said everything was closed. You head back to your room not really sure why there is so much fuss about Berlin.
Traveler Sunday: You join the happy and hopelessly tone-deaf at Mauerpark for Sunday afternoon karaoke. You got an insider tip that it gets packed early, so you show up at 10:00 am, picnic basket in tow, and put your name down on the list. Around 1:00 pm you get to lead the crowd in “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi. You want to extend your stay in Berlin because you know there is so much more to discover.
So how can you upgrade your Berlin experience to that of a traveler? For an authentic Berlin adventure, I suggest that you try and to stay with a local. There are multiple websites and resources that can match willing local hosts and adventurous travelers. Most people are familiar with Couchsurfing, which offers visitors a world-wide network. Couch surfing is exactly that, you crash on someone’s couch for a few days free of charge. The network also encourages host and guest to leave feedback, reviewing their stay. It’s a great concept but at the ripe old age of 33, I have outgrown crashing on couches.
I am most comfortable at the halfway mark between ratty couch and five-star hotel. For me, renting a room in an apartment for a short stay would be ideal. For the traveler that has taste similar to mine, Wimdu offers hundreds of apartments in Berlin. Wimdu’s motto “mein Haus ist dein haus” is the German equivalent to “mi casa es su casa.” Travelers can rent a room or an entire flat if they want. Berlin accommodations can be found in all areas of the city, in all price ranges, and meet every aesthetic.
It is also a great idea to open your home to aspiring travelers if you take part – share your couch or your flat. It’s a great way to make friends and introduce open-minded wanderers to your city.