9 Tips for Experiencing a Destination Like a Local
Travel is exciting in all forms, but it’s just a truism that we tend to fall into the same old travelling regimes. When we don’t know our destination all that well, it’s easy – not to mention comforting – just to head to wherever the rest of the tourists congregate. We’re not saying this will lead to a bad travel experience; of course, it won’t! But there is another way, and that is to experience your chosen destination like a local. But how do you do this? We take a look below.
Do Your Research
Now, it’s unlikely that you’re going to turn up in a new country and have an intuitive feel for the culture, people, the way of life, and so on. You can only experience a destination like a local if you’ve done your research! Luckily, in today’s digital age, this is easy enough. Wherever in the world it is you’re visiting, there will be hundreds of blogs, books, podcasts, and more that can entertain and educate you about that place. While you’ll want to keep some things a mystery – so there’s still an element of surprise when you arrive – knowing the basics will enable you to do all the things that the locals do.
Get the Accommodation Right
You could stay in a fancy hotel right in the tourist zone of town; you will undoubtedly have a good time! But how many locals spend their nights in plush accommodation, surrounded by tourists? Not many. They spend their time in the other neighbourhoods! If you want to see how the locals really live, then, you’ll need to position yourself amongst them. You can rent a place for your trip, or even buy a place. The latter is especially good for experiencing life like a local, and can lead to many travel adventures if you get the destination right. Find a place in Asia, like those available at Rumahdijual, and you’ll have the rest of the continent waiting to be explored. After you’ve spent enough time there, you won’t just be living like a local; you will be a local!
Leave the Travel Guide Behind
Now, a lot of good can come from travel guides. However, sometimes people tend to become over-reliant on them. If you’re just going to wherever the travel guide is pointing you, then what small details might you be missing out on? Before your trip, you can make a list of the things that you want to see; and then, after that, keep the book out of sight. You won’t need it for every – or even many – aspect of your journey. And plus, magic happens when you get lost; see the next paragraph, for example.
Hit the Streets
There are highlights to every city, but they only encompass a small percentage of all there is to be enjoyed in a place. The majority of it is taken up by its architecture, atmosphere, colour, food, and so on. You can’t read about these, or just pay an admission fee; you just need to feel your way into them. You can do this by strapping on some comfortable shoes, hitting the streets, and walking in whichever direction looks most appealing. As long as you know where the “bad” areas of town are, then you’re unlikely to wander off into anything too troublesome. If you get a little bit lost, then that’s OK. You’ll certainly discover more than you otherwise would have, and you might just stumble upon something that only tried and tested locals know about.
Speak to the Locals
You’re trying to explore a new space like a local…and what better way to do that than to speak to one of the locals? If you’re not fluent in the language, then at least learn a few key phrases – check out basic phrases before you go (such as, “do you speak [my language]?”). Once you’ve struck up a conversation, you’ll be able to discover plenty of insider information. If you’re not a local, then the next best thing you can do is to pick the brains of a person that knows what they’re talking about.
Have you ever seen those people who are obviously a tourist? Camera around their neck, maps flopping everywhere, t-shirts, shorts, and sandals? There’s nothing wrong with the look, but it does mean they get treated as an outsider. This can range from being charged more than a local, to simply being spoken to in their own language; hardly the authentic experience! If you know a few phrases, and more importantly, can dress in the style of the locals, then you might find that you’re more naturally accepted into the fold.
Step Outside of Comfort Zone
Part of travelling is the opportunity to experience different customs and ways of doing things. Don’t cherry pick which of these you follow! Get into the mix with all of them. Sometimes, this is going to mean stepping out of your comfort zone, such as when it comes to food. People around the world eat some pretty interesting things: give it a try! If it’s good enough for the locals, then it’s going to be good enough for you.
Avoid the Tourist Rush
Mass-tourism is everywhere, and it can compromise your enjoyment of a destination. One way to get around this is to travel during “low-season,” which is when the tourists aren’t quite as prevalent. All the usual attractions will still be there, but you won’t have to elbow fifty thousand people out of the way to see them…and the sheer ratio of tourists/locals will be skewed in favour of the locals, as you want it to be.
Be Willing to Look Stupid
Finally, no-one’s able to travel confidently and securely across all parts of the globe. If you want to step off the usual tourist travel, then you’re going to have to risk looking a little bit silly from time to time. Just ignore it: the benefits will far outweigh the moment of awkwardness.
How do you feel about experiencing a destination like a local?