One of the unique things about The Elder Scrolls Online and is that it encourages exploration. Throughout the world there are tons and tons of quests that are just sitting there in random locations. You get your very first taste of this on your starting island. There will come a point where you’ll have gone through the main story quest and be told you can find other villagers (for whatever starting zone you’re in) or go ahead and start the quest event. As you explore the island you’ll come to find tons of different quests that’ll provide you with XP and loot that you’d give up if you had just packed your things and continued on with the story.
That’s realistically the story of your life in TESO. You’re going to find a lot of situations where you don’t have anything to do because there is nothing near the story quests, but that isn’t where quests are at. They’re littered throughout the world and sometimes they have quest markers (indicating an area with quest givers) and sometimes they do not. Sometimes a quest for a specific area doesn’t even start in that area, it starts off an item dropped in a completely different area of the map that leads you to another separate area where the quest is at.
It’s a stark comparison to other MMOs where breadcrumbs drop you off at quest hubs, where you pick up several quests then venture out, complete the quests, return, and then are given a new set of quests that lead you in the new direction. In TESO you’re more or less given a blank world and a story quest that might not even take you anywhere near other quests for long periods of time. That’s why side quests are ultimately so important for experience and wandering around on the map and discovering new locations is so critical.
There are also alternate story quest lines, specifically relating to the Mage and Fighters guild, that you’ll pick up in the first major city that you visit. They also have you exploring the world and completing various quests, and are ultimately the only other source of “breadcrumbs.”
You’ll have to just stay in level appropriate areas and wander around to get the true experience of the game, or hop onto zone chat and ask for the locations of some quest objectives.
To find where quests may be at, open your map and look for markers describing an area. This is often where you’ll find quests. However, it’s not the only location. Tons of NPCs are resting under trees, standing on the road, hidden inside of caves, or wandering around. You’ll actively have to be mobile in order to find the lot of them.
Once you've completed all of the activites in an area, the marker will change from the location name to the location name and denote that you successfully achieved whatever adventure was there. See the above screenshot for an example.
While it’s a giant departure from how other MMOs handle questing, it’s definitely something different and fresh. I encourage you to not get frustrated in the game as you’re wondering what to do and just start wandering, adventure will be found at some point and who knows what you’ll find.