How To Have Local Travel Experiences: Mix With The Locals
An impromptu karaoke night high in the hills of Vietnam, dining on Lanna delicacies (!) in northern Thailand and a picnic on the floor in Italy are just a few of the experiences we have had when we have mixed with the locals.
As travellers we have always made a conscious effort to interact with the locals and from time to time we find ourselves dining with them at their homes. The Karaoke night came about as we were eating in a small family restaurant in Sa Pa and were invited to the family party. Not a word of English was spoken but they fed us, gave us copious amounts of beer and I have a vague memory of singing a very off tune version of “I did it my way” with the patriarch of the family while being cheered on by the rest of the family. Fun memories.
If we had not been open and receptive to interacting with the locals this experience plus a number of others we have had would never have happened, so give it shot hang out with a local.
HOW TO MIX WITH THE LOCALS
Think about the type of accommodation you book. By renting an apartment or staying with a host you will gain a lot more local knowledge, often the owner of the apartment / host will give you the inside tip of where they like to eat, drink and visit, if they don’t ask them.
Use Local Transport
OK sitting for 6 hours on a hot crowded bus in the back blocks of Laos is certainly not everyone’s idea of fun BUT it does give you an amazing experience and you just may well find the locals around you sharing with you the snacks and food they have bought on board, and it will always be with a big smile.
We have met the most amazing people on local buses and trains while wandering the world so give it a go catch local PT.
Go On Local Tours
I am not a lover of organised tours BUT often by doing some research and asking around in the town you are staying in you can find a local who conducts tours of the area or major sights. These tours are pretty much always small groups (or just you) and in my experience offer so much more than a tour with a giant organisation.
Memory: A few years ago we were staying in Sighisoara, Romania and went on a day tour of the Saxon Villages that are in the area with a Dutch Anthropologist. The guy had settled in the area many years ago and gave us an amazing insight into both the Saxon and Roma peoples and as an added treat he took us to a farm to see the shepherds milking the sheep for the cheese they produce.
Eat and Shop Locally
Eat and shop in the towns markets and locally run restaurants, within a few days the stall holders will get to know you and start anticipating what you want and often point you in the right direction of what is good.
Make an Effort
In our experience we find most locals welcoming and interested in who you are and where you are from. When travelling it is really important to respect the people and the culture of the country you are in – its not cool to walk around it your swimmers in many countries so have respect. And oh and learn a few words of the country you are going to, it goes along way.