PokemonGo launched the week I moved to Auckland, New Zealand. I’d just spent four months backpacking Southeast Asia and before that, I was living in Seoul, Korea for two years. It felt great to be back in an English speaking country, but I had no idea where I was going.
Once of the primary reasons PokemonGo is great for expats is that it encourages newbies to explore. Of course the idea of walking around like a zombie isn’t what some would deem as “exploration,” but it’s true. I promise. Each time I went outside and opened the PokemonGo app, I was been able to discover something new in my neighborhood.
I generally like to keep my eyes on my surroundings rather than stay entranced by the game on my iPhone screen. Except for the time I walked into a pole.
I wasn’t even that good at the game. I didn’t really fight in the PokemonGo gyms nor did I know the ins and outs of the game’s capabilities. It’s not like I was unable to research the information. I’d just preferred to collect them and admire my less-than-impressive Pokedex, reminiscent of the way I felt about my Pokemon card binder as a child.
In fact, I realized how uninformed I am just the other day. While walking back from the Parnell Farmer’s Market I noticed a mass group of people on the side of the road in front of our house. Cars were stopping, people were gathered and everyone was evidently catching a Pokemon. I asked a group standing nearby what was happening.
“There’s a Ninetail nearby,” a guy responded. “I just caught it using a raspberry and an Ultra Ball.”
“An ULTRA BALL?!” I thought. “Wait. What in the world is a Ninetail?”
Within three weeks’ time I had barely even reached level 12, let alone received an ULTRA BALL. At any rate, we had a nice chat and I was able to catch the Ninetail without using any special tricks. I noticed some of the people were discussing going to another part of town together to hunt down another rarity. I couldn’t be bothered, so I went inside.
I’m not saying PokemonGo MADE me go outside and explore my new neighborhood. I would have done that anyway. Don’t tell me walking around looking for pretend colorful phone objects isn’t fun, though. It’s a bonding experience among fellow players and enables newbies to the city a chance to explore side streets, alleyways and local monuments that may have otherwise gone undiscovered.
Don’t make fun of people for playing PokemonGo unless they’re walking into poles. Or driving straight into police cars. Or illegally crossing country borders. Or copying the game entirely (LOL, c’mon Korea.) There are some downsides to this global trend, but think about the great that’s come out of it, too.
It’s helped people get over their social anxiety, it’s inspiring others to get moving and exercise and encouraged local volunteers to help some lonely animals. As with anything in life, there’s a good and a bad side to the coin.
PokemonGo isn’t the only app for travelers and expats to discover new cities. GPSmyCity offers some amazing walking tours and travel tips for cities and towns across the globe. There are plenty of self-guided city walks available in dozens of cities across the globe. It’s an excellent way for expats to safely get acclimated with a new city. It can be downloaded in Google Play and iTunes stores today!
Whichever way you choose to explore is wonderful. Just get outside! Remember to keep an open mind but more importantly keep your eyes and ears open to your surroundings.