• Travel Like A Local: Non-Tourist Activities


    Let's face it, there's only so much you can experience of a destination's culture, sights and people while surrounded by hordes of other tourists from around the world. Sure, you're all there to experience certain "must-see" attractions, but I guarantee -- and this comes from personal experience -- the memories you will most cherish upon returning home are going to come from those times you ventured off the beaten path during your travels. Although, that may be better said than done. So how can you stray from the well-trodden path of past travelers? Here are five tips you can use to help achieve your goal.

    1) Social Media

    Before you leave or during your travels, reach out to your various social networks and ask for recommendations from your friends and acquaintances. Chances are, many of your friends who themselves have been to your destination will have explored some of its lesser-known parts (either intentionally or unintentionally), and will be glad to recommend some of their favorite experiences. Further, they may have friends, or had made friends while there, who would be able to suggest some unique ideas to you.

    2) Ditch the Guidebook

    Not that the guidebook won't be extremely useful to you for certain purposes, but there are only so many pages your book can devote to your destination, and chances are those pages will be focused on the main sights and attractions. To supplement your research, go online and explore travel blogs and sites, many of which -- free from the physical constraints of print and the business demands of publishing -- will likely devote a great deal of attention to the off the beaten path sights around your destination. Further, online writers and bloggers tend be a bit more adventurous, and will have a knack for exploring the lesser-known.

    3) Get Social

    It may be uncomfortable for many, especially those of us from North America, but the more you talk to strangers, the more you're likely going to get some great insights into the real culture of your destination. From my own experiences, the very fact that you're traveling to someone else's home will likely be all the justification a local will need to want to spend the next 20 minutes of their lives telling you about their favorite sights, where they like to go during their free time at home, and what areas are worth seeing away from the tourist attractions. So next time you're sitting at a cafe, eating at a restaurant or relaxing in the park, be open to the idea of striking up a conversation with the stranger next to you -- you never know what revelations will be in store for you.

    4) Head to the "Grey" Zones

    Getting off the beaten path means, whether you like it or not, you will need to spend some time leaving your "comfort zone," and your comfort zone while traveling usually are those areas surrounded by other tourists and well marked in your guidebook. Try to put some time aside every day to explore an area that is not listed in your guidebook and explore a part of your destination you know nothing about. Chances are, these will be the areas where the "real" residents live and play, and it will be here you will have the chance to experience what makes your destination so special.

    5) Get Lost

    If all else fails and you're tired of feeling herded like sheep amongst a group of tourists, put down the guidebook, ditch the map, and start wandering. Do this for a good half-hour and soon you'll be nice and lost, steeped in the lesser-visited parts of your destination and surrounded by the unknown. It is here where you'll likely be alone amongst the locals, forced to make conversation (at the minimum to find a good place to eat), and experiencing the "real" parts of your destination. I have no scientific proof, but it will likely be during this excursion that you will find a restaurant, meet a local, or visit a quirky shop that will forever stick in your mind as the best memory from your trip. And at the very least, you will know that no one else back home will have done the same.

    : Matt Stabile is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the travel blog TheExpeditioner.com
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