It’s one thing to travel like a tourist – ticking off landmark attractions and obvious experiences – but quite another to travel like a local.
1. Be curious, talk to locals
For me, travel is as much about meeting the local people as it is about seeing the local sights.
You can learn so much more about a place and its culture by really chatting with the people who live there.
The Grandma or Grandpa sitting on the corner, the fresh fruit vendor on the street or the mother in the market. Every person has a story and more often than not, they are quite open about having a talk with a traveller. Connecting with people outside your direct circle and contacts will give you a deeper and better connection to the destination you’re visiting.
Be inquisitive, branch out and have meaningful conversations with everyone you meet, not just the people you’re travelling with.
2. Learn to say YES more (within reason)
When traveling, one of the most important things to bring is a YES mentality. Have an open heart and an open mind about where you’re going and what you’re doing.
One of my favourite memories was while I was in NYC about 5 years ago, I met a guy at a bar, an Englishman named Ollie. We had a great talk for all of 30 minutes and he invited me to a picnic at Central Park the next day with some of his English friends. Sceptical at first, I was bored the next day so decided to walk past. I ended spending the whole day at the park with them and most of the next week in their company. Today, he has become one of my very good friend with him visiting Australia numerous times and I always try to go and see him when I’m in Europe.
3. Be flexible
Travel is about going with the flow. Rigid plans mean you might miss out on seeing or experiencing something unique. Having a set itinerary is fine and can help you maximise your time, but don’t discount serendipity.
Sometimes it pays to create space in your travel schedule for unexpected surprises.
4. Stay with a local
One of the most enriching ways to travel like a local, is in fact staying with a local. It can offer you an instant sense of belonging, connecting with other people in the community as well as local insights.
Most people know some one who lives at the destination or know someone who knows someone. The world isn’t as big as we think it is, we are all connected so prior to travelling, call on your connections!
Airbnb is a godsend to escaping the usual tourist-hotel mindset. It allows you to immerse yourself in wherever you are and offer you a more authentic travel experience. Pretend you live there!
5. Find out what’s on
Another way to mingle with like-minded people and enjoy some budget-friendly entertainment is free events.
DO YOUR RESEARCH about what’s on, free or otherwise. A cool band that you’ve always love, an art exhibition, an open-air theatre or even a book reading at a library. The list is endless.
Knowing what’s on is a great way of being able to experience the heart and soul of a destination and allow you to see the city from a deeper perspective than a tourist.
6. Embrace local traditions and cultures
Regardless of your own personal beliefs, try to immerse yourself in local customs and religions.
Put on a sari, take off your shoes and explore the temple/ancient grounds. There’s something magical about cultural or religious grounds that you automatically feel when you enter, a presence that you have to experience yourself to make you appreciate it.
7. Come out from behind your camera or smartphone
We all want that perfect Instagram shot and the Facebook photos to prove we’re off having the best time (when our friends are all stuck at home). But you can miss so much by being trapped behind a gadget. Remember to put your phone down and your camera away to really get the most out of where you are.