When you travel continuously, you get tired of ‘seeing the sights’ and really want some structure to your life. Always changing locations makes me lust after a ritual (a commute, group of friends or kitchen). It was with this feeling that I started playing “Mark, Sue.”
So you want to feel like a local. That is the highest form of travel. You know the sights, the culture, the language and feel of a place. You experience town like no tourist can.
To get to this point, I can spend a year in a place, or just become a short term stalker.
Enter Mark, Sue. Walk out of wherever you are. Find someone that looks interesting for some reason. You might like their scarf, or glasses, or pace.
Now follow them.
At a distance. I’ve been playing the game for years, and tracked hundreds of people, and not a single one has confronted me. I named the game ‘Mark, Sue’ because I was so afraid of this confrontation. If they turn around say “Are you Mark? No, you look like my old friend from here, I’ve lost contact years back, we met in NYC a few years back, what is your name?” Never happened, but it is good for the nerves to be prepared.
So you are following Mark or Sue. Now pay attention, to everything. What is their pace like. This is how a local walks. Note their route. This is how a local commutes. They stop at a coffeeshop? You know a locals spot. Grab an espresso. When you finish, find another Mark. If they go in a store or direction you don’t want to, turn around.
I’ve gone to the tops of office buildings in Athens, caught subway transfers to crosstown busses in NYC, changed nightclubs in Barcelona at 4am and found some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had in Thailand. It is by far my favorite thing to do while traveling.
The game is simple. What you can get out of it is far from a walk? It is the shortest way for me to get off the tourist track and find locals not tired of chatting up a smiling giant from the States.