Traveling is about getting rid of our comfort fields, being tested and immersed in a vastly different local culture than ours. So, if all you plan to do on your next worldwide jaunt is to travel with other foreigners in a pack and stick to eating burgers and fries— you’re seriously missing out.
Next time you travel abroad, get off the beaten path and spend as much time as you can as a local individual. Here’s how: Stay Locally Do yourself a favor and get out of touristy spots.
Organize your own local or independent housing in the areas where people live their daily life and discourage anything but a quick tour of the tourist traps. airbnb.com is a great way to do so!
Please take down the Lonely Planet. Do NOT spend a dime on any other guidebooks! Instead, head to awayn.com and search through 100K local adventures! ( it’s free and you can save them to build itineraries)
Ask locals about their favorite restaurants, market stalls, and dishes— then check out them. Often, local cuisine will far outperform any Western food on the market— and will be much cheaper as well. Plus, no matter how much you miss food from your home country, it won’t be the same abroad anyway.
Instead of mass-tourist-transit, find out the best way to travel locally, whether it’s by bicycle, motorcycle, foot, auto-rickshaw, maxi-taxi or subway. Not only can you explore local life and stop when you want to have your own transportation, but it also keeps you from having to deal with hawkers and “guides” trying to scam you.
At first it may seem intimidating to get around alone— but the fear will dissolve after you, say, ride a bike down a mountain and see the children watching you pass by, smiling and laughing at the funny person in her way.
Wear Traditional Dress with Flair Buy local clothing products in order to be able to blend and show consideration for local markets. This doesn’t mean you should dress up in traditional garb from head to toe (unless it’s a holiday or you’ve been proposed by a local and dressed properly), but find a way to combine your own fashion feeling with the culture around you.
Keep the time and location in mind— just because a country is hot doesn’t imply you can wear a bikini in public (most non-Western countries consider excess skin displays to be immodest). Also be aware that if you’re in a city and everyone wears Western clothes, traditional clothes, like a Vietnamese rice paddy hat, may look like a mockery of rural life.
Find Ways to Connect Start relationships with locals by showing interest in people and their lives in the same way you’d be at home. Ask about the stuff they care about — their family, their religion, their food, and what they do for fun — and be prepared to answer your own questions in return. What can you share at home with your society? Share stories and songs rather than material items—they’re cheaper and don’t take up any extra space in your bag! You can also show photos on the phone or camera you’re traveling with.
You are bound to have a sharing-worthy experience, new friends to remain in touch, and perhaps even some fresh recipes to practice as soon as you return home. Do not be afraid of unfamiliar land — go local and embrace a new culture with an adventurous spirit and passion!