25 Ways to Experience Place

1. Keep your eyes open as you arrive: from a plane or a road, the approach tells you everything.

2. Talk to someone. As you do, picture yourself, the aggregate of everything you know, in their place in all the stories they tell. Do you become a different person? Do you become more or less like them?

3. Stop making noise. Be still and listen to all the sounds around you. Assign each sound to the object you think is making it. Now imagine hearing these sounds somewhere else.

4. You can feel the way people tend to act. Call it a vibe. See if you can feel it. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle applies here: try to blend in. Observe, but don’t participate. Which way do things tend to go? How do they tend to get there?

5. Walk constantly, everywhere.

6. Imagine the nuts and bolts of how you would go about surviving where you are if the basic foundations of society (ready food supply, security, communications) were to collapse. Similarly: invade. What do you capture first? How do you plan on subduing the natives?

7. Examine the plants. Which ones are edible? Which are poisonous? Which secrete sticky, rancid saps you should know better than to touch?

8. Locate a relatively fixed landmark, something that’s been around for centuries, like a tree, or for millennia, like a mountain. Stand at the landmark’s base and look back, away from it, and try to rewind the videotape that has played across this view. Now try to fast forward it.

9. Find the smallest living thing you can and imagine it’s daily routine, try to reinterpret your environment on its scale, with its understanding.

10. Eat something that grew in the soil you are standing on.

11. Get drunk, but appear drunker than you really are. What finds you? Trouble, celebration, or compassion?

12. Follow the smells on the breeze, good or bad, to their source.

13. Look at the buildings. They’ve all got something in common, what is it? Does it have something to do with the climate? With history? The economy? The government? The materials available? Find the biggest, most expensive looking building. Whats in it?

14. Note the weather. And the quality of the light.

15. Take a taxi. And a bus.

16. Go to a market and come up with a menu for your dinner. Alternately, just eat like everyone else.

17. Watch the police, talk to people, read the paper; find the thing people fear the most.

18. Watch the crowds, talk to people, read the paper; find the thing people love the most.

19. Start an argument, but resolve it before it comes to blows. I don’t know, just improvise. Share a moment of connection (drinks, smokes, food) with your former opponent.

20. Figure out what people do in their spare time. If you can’t, they’re probably watching television.

21. Try to buy drugs.

22. Build a daily routine for yourself, as if you were a permanent resident. Where do you go? When and why? What would you prefer to avoid?

23. Pay attention to the animals.

24. Pay attention to what you feel.

25. Pay attention.