Why do we travel, hey? If you’re the kind of person looking for more than a beach resort and all-inclusive bar, there are many much more interesting ways to have a change of scene. How about a change of culture? Try stepping beyond your comfort zone, see how other people live and experience something different to life back home.
You can learn at the same time… a new language, a new pace of life while encountering new land and cityscapes, are all part of the thrill. Who hasn’t loved learning the many ways to say ‘good day’ in Spanish, or got caught up in the thrum of Tokyo life? ‘Buenos dias’ and ‘oregato’, indeed!
Eating too, is a big draw. Slurping through your first bowl of ‘pho’ is sure fine way to immerse yourself into life in Vietnam, with extra points if you can pronounce the dish correctly (it’s “fuh” for the intrigued amongst you). Drinking your first shot of ouzo in Athens is a buzz that almost certainly leads you to the dancefloor, and who hasn’t felt tempted to ‘samba’ like a Carnival queen whilst enjoying a ‘bloco’ party in Brazil?
There’s so much joy to be had when travelling the world, but it seems the biggest pull is learning to live like a local.
Living like a local challenges
Not always easy when you have just a weekend away, and even if you’re travelling long-term, you’re most likely to spend a few days in any one place before moving on. Something adventure addict and sustainable blogger Gallivant Society can attest to…
“I lived in Belize for four years and it took a good six months to start making local friends. It wasn’t until I lived there for a year and a half, and started having local room mates, that I started understanding Belizean culture the best. Using local guides are probably the best way for an outsider to be immersed in a new culture. I just think you can only absorb so much in a short time”
All too true, but there’s something to be had in finding people locally who know their stuff…
Eating food like a local
Researching the national dishes and checking out travel bloggers for local restaurant recommendations are all good ways to set you on the right track. It’s not until you’re immersed in things though, that you’ll start to notice the best places to head to. When in Rome, eat pasta where the romans do, and in Shang Hai, keep your eyes peeled for where the Chinese residents pick up their chopsticks.
If you need a little push in the right direction though, do as family blogger Home and Horizon suggests in her blog on how to travel like a local, and ask bartenders, restaurant staff and street vendors where they eat. Within hours, you’ll be eating the heartiest bowl of stew and dumplings you could wish for in the back streets of Prague, and you’ll never visit a tourist trap again.
Work and play like the locals
Volunteering is a sure way to immerse yourself into a new culture. It requires you pick up the basics of a new language beyond the simple hellos and goodbyes, and inevitably means you’re riding public transport with the working people day in, day out. Helping out in a local community means you see daily life in action too, and give a little back to the place that welcomed you in so kindly.
Staying put for months isn’t feasible for everyone though, so as budget blogger According to Zascha suggests, taking a class is a great way to get into the thick of things. All it takes is one pizza making session in Naples and ‘Mambo Italiano’! You’re practically Italian. Getting involved in local games is a great idea too. Drinking beer and playing Tejo (an explosive clay-throwing game) in Bogota is the only way to chat to Colombians off the tourist trail, not to mention the most fun you’ll have in your life.
Make the World Your Home
Where you stay is all important too. Whilst diverting from the tourist path isn’t always advised, every city the world over has its places to avoid – staying in tourist hubs doesn’t always make for the most authentic experience. However, there is value to be found in staying in local hostels and hotels, as solo traveller The Fly Away Life recommends…
“If you’ve already arrived at a destination without researching the best local spots, the staff at your hotel could end up being the best local guides. They live and work in the area you are exploring, so of course they have all the insider info on the best places to eat and lesser known attractions. I’ve found the most amazing hole-in-the-wall restaurants and beautiful waterfalls by just chatting with the staff where I’m staying!”
Then again, you could always stay with a local. Who better knows about life in Paris than a French dude with inbuilt knowledge on which food markets are the best to scour, or which clubs the Bolivians party hardest at in La Paz. Sharing someone’s home naturally means a more-homely experience too, and if you stay with friends (or friends of friends for that matter) through myfriendsroom.com, there’s none of those awkward hellos and getting to know you involved too.
How do we all feel about making the world your home and living like a local when travelling now?