When you imagine your travels, do you envisage yourself immersed in the local culture, or far removed from it in a 5 star gated resort? Most of us imagine the culture but then book the swankiest hotel our budgets will stretch to.
Imagine how interesting it could be if you actively participate in another culture when you travel. Make the effort and you can experience the local environment, activities and cuisine. Get to know local people, and boost your understanding of local culture. Think of it as the transition from tourist to guest
If this sounds like something that would make the right kind of memories; here are few tips:
Use Local Accommodation: Rather than booking a hotel why not book a Bed & Breakfast, or even Airbnb?. Pick a location that is not downtown, or near the airport. You can avoid hotels and stay among the local people. There are specialist organizations that help secure accommodation with local families if you want to go the extra mile.
Learn the Language: You don’t need to become fluent, simple conversation or just a few words, is possible quicker than you think. Learning a few words in the local tongue enhances your local travel experience and adds more fun. We found a neat resource here for language learning software recommendations.
Eat Local food: If you are sensible you are not going to vomit or catch diarrhea. Most street food is cooked at high temperature and so is naturally decontaminated. Avoid notorious foods like sea-food and uncooked meats and try not to accept ice in your drink. One of the highs of travelling is tasting local cuisine. People often end up discovering meals that they will enjoy for the rest of their lives. So stay away from the international fast food, and dive right in. You don’t know what you’ve been missing until you try.
Attend Festivals: Whether its planned (like a trip to Mardi Gras) or accidental like stumbling onto a procession in a back street in Italy. There is nothing quite like a festival. Everyone is happy, and you can usually get the back-story from an English speaking local. You should learn the history or legend behind the event. For the extra brave there may be a dance to learn or a special way that things are done.
Local Experience: Check out museums, plays, puppet shows, and dig into the history of the area you are visiting. You may feel a little lost at times, but when you share what you have learned with your bar tender or fellow travelers later in the day; they are bound to be impressed.
All these will make your visit a memorable one. It will open your mind, add to your knowledge and present you as a willing guest.
With thanks to Olamide Olaleye for his insights