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Weekend Getaway Guide

10 Things Every Traveler Should Do

Whether you’re trekking to an exotic locale or revisiting an old haunt, get more pleasure from your vacation with these pointers.

By Pico Iyer
Red leather suitcases stacked Lucas Allen

 3. Devour the hotel literature. Don’t ignore the glossy magazines placed on your desk or lists of sightseeing activities in the guest-services brochure. How else would I have known that Baltimore is home to the unique and haunting American Visionary Art Museum? Or that I could walk with lions in Mauritius? Where else could I have found out that there are six different kinds of operator-assisted phone calls in Bhutan―Urgent, Lightning, Distress, Important, Immediate, and Most Immediate―and they all seem to be treated about the same?
 4. Run an errand for a friend. She’s asked you to get, say, macadamia popcorn on Maui or to track down that wise monk she once met in Phnom Penh. The very search for what someone else wants or values (and it doesn’t really matter what it is) will lead you to places you would otherwise never see.
 5. Take in a performance or a sporting event. A ball game or a symphony is transporting and doesn’t require you to speak the language. And watching opera in Beijing or soccer in Rio will be nothing like seeing opera or soccer at home. It would take a mighty effort to get me to Swan Lake in Santa Barbara. But put me in Beirut and I know it will be a night to remember.
 6. Check out a bookstore. It’s a great way to learn about the interests of the locals. On almost any street in New Delhi, for example, a bookshop is bulging with works on palaces, textiles, spirituality, and the Kama Sutra; in Salt Lake City, the offerings are somewhat different. And in a store like the independent-minded Elliott Bay Book Company, a local institution in Seattle, you’ll find a universe so compendious that it seems to be an anthology of the city’s distinctive grace notes. Poking into even the smallest of these places not only opens a new door to a city but also offers the promise of a good read to keep you company at night.

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