Scavenger hunts are a great way to make yourself try new things while away by inventing insane activities or conversely to push yourself to interact with local cultures and people. Travel scavenger lists can be a fun way to see a new country or even to explore new aspects of a city you’ve lived in for years.
Whether it’s ‘Have a conversation about pancakes with a stranger’, ‘Attend a random party’ or ‘Eat five local delicacies’, scavenger hunts can tick your travelling boxes off in really unexpected and fun ways. So here are five reasons to tick ‘Create your own scavenger hunt’ off your next travel list.
Travel scavenger lists are great way to give yourself a little push outside your comfort zone.
Sometimes when travelling it’s easy to just see the tourist sights and write the experience off as a job well done. But human psychology is a strange thing, and sometimes, having the excuse of needing to tick a box can push you to be bolder and more adventurous than you thought. When that box is ‘Party with randoms’, you can end up attending a cider festival in a tiny village in the Basque country, watching local experts pour beer from head height to a cup held at their hips, and trying everything on the menu at the food tent because you don’t speak Spanish.
Yes, this happened, and yes, a friend and I had a great night drinking local cider, eating patatas bravas and pulpo a la Gallega, and watching people dance to Spanish music, all while being able to tick the first item off our Spain scavenger hunt list.
Yep, there’s a Global Scavenger Hunt competition that you can apply to enter, where 15 two person teams are ferried through 10 countries in 23 days. Travellers don’t know the countries beforehand and are given a list of optional scavenges to complete in each, with past examples including visiting an herbal medicine shop in China and being diagnosed without mentioning illnesses, or buying supplies at a specific supermarket in Cambodia and giving them to an orphanage or Children’s Village.
For those keen to take part, be warned: the entry fee is $25,000 per team.
There are also tour guides who offer custom-made scavenger hunts as ways to discover an area or city, or as a way to discover the foodie options in Las Vegas.
Scavenger lists are mobile. Like pretty much anything you can think of these days, there’s an app for that. In a previous life, I even reviewed one (spoiler: the app didn’t do well but even then I mentioned such apps would be an excellent way to explore new cities).
There are currently about 10 scavenger hunt apps available on iTunes, and more on Google Play, with some specifically designed for exploring while travelling. For instance, there’s a Route 66 app which lists places to visit along the historic highway, a customisable app to create your own hunts with friends, a pre-loaded Parisian hunt, and hunts specific to given areas or even buildings, such as Banff National Park and Melbourne Museum. The apps range in price from free to about $7.
Whether you want to try a pre-determined list or make your own hunt for a new city or country to push your normal guide book-determined itinerary, scavenger hunt apps can be an easy, cheap and different way to see the sights and experience a new place.
Sometimes that aforementioned ‘push’ to try new things can be all about avoiding the tourist sights to see the real countryside and getting super creative.
Friends of mine made the first item on their tour of the South Island of New Zealand ‘Get out of Queenstown’, because they wanted to make sure they saw the countryside and not just the tourist-oriented offerings around the adventure capital of Middle Earth.
On the Spain scavenger hunt, ‘Have an impromptu swim’ was on the list and meant we had to find an out of the way spot to have lunch one day so we could tick this item off our list.
An item on a summer scavenger hunt list, intended to make me try new things, meant I ended up having a conversation with a random stranger about pancakes in the street one day. Devising travel scavenger list items is a great way to pass the time while waiting for a train or during a lunch break, and over time, more and more insane ideas get thrown around (Okay, how about: Re-enact the ‘You Shall Not Pass’ scene from Lord of the Rings on a bridge over a raging river in Northern Spain?)
Those aforementioned friends wrote their scavenger list on the inside of their hired van with Sharpies (don’t worry, the rental company encouraged this) so the next travellers who hired the vehicle could also complete it.
Travel scavenger hunt lists can be a good way to force you to discover something other than the usual tourist fare and encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to travel.
It’s an often bemoaned observation that when you live in a city or country, you never see as much of it as a tourist does, since the impetus to travel and discover just isn’t there, and generally you don’t have the free time that tourists do, what with work, hobbies, and that generally annoying thing, life.
Travel scavenger lists could help you rediscover the city or country you live in by making you not only list specific sights, exhibits or places you’ve been meaning to go to, they can also help you be creative about a place you thought you knew.
A friend of mine and I once bunked off study to make a scavenger list of the city we lived in at the time, Auckland. We travelled all over, and I found places I hadn’t visited before, beautiful views I hadn’t seen, cafes I hadn’t tried, and generally had a great time.
When the same friend complained that he wasn’t enjoying the Australian city he was living in a few years later, I made him a scavenger list of places to go to, things to do and sights to see, based on research online and sheer wild imagination. While I don’t know if he ever completed the list, it definitely made me want to create one for my own city to try and discover some new places in an area I thought I knew well.
In fact, if you’ll excuse me, I think I have a list to make…