When traveling to a new city, people often put the usuals on the list of to-dos: local food, historic sites and museums. For me, I often plan as much of my itinerary around nightlife as I can. Yes, museums and restaurants will tell you about the history and culture of a place, but bars and clubs can reveal more about the city.
Beyond serving as a stage for the best of local fashion and music, nightclubs offer that unstructured, unfiltered environment that allows you to fully immerse yourself in a place.
Indeed, some cities - from Baku to Berlin to Bangkok - are defined by their world-renowned nightlife subcultures. For fans of techno, testing the door of the German club Berghain is a holy rite of passage. And within the United States, cities like New York, Las Vegas and Miami immediately conjure the idea of a wild time.
For people of color and LGBTQ people in particular, nightlife outside America offers formative experiences - some that can challenge you, admittedly, and others where you can be more comfortable in your own skin. And for those who don't go to clubs in their own city, let alone in a foreign country, what's travel if not a time to try things you wouldn't do in your hometown?
While any night out - at home or abroad - is a roll of the dice, you can put in a little work to help things go smoothly. Though it's ideal to connect with locals through mutual friends, sometimes the best advice comes from just asking around.
Of course, safety comes first, and it's best to always stay aware of your surroundings. But if you exercise the same common sense you would at home, you should be fine. Like my mom always warned me, keep your money out of sight and your drinks in sight.
So next time you're in a big city, give yourself a night on the town. As much as you might learn about a place from the spontaneous, colorful cast of characters at a club, you might also learn a little something about who you are when you count yourself as one of them.