We all want to capture the authentic local experience while traveling. However, with so many travelers wanting the same thing, it is easy to find yourself in the tourist hub. Following well-trodden routes and knowledgeable tour guides is simple. It helps you to navigate new places without the risk of missing out. However, tourist routes can also restrict the development of local knowledge and authentic atmosphere. There are ways around this problem, read ahead for suggestions of how to embrace a real cultural experience.
Table of Contents
Walk, walk, walk for local experience
First thing to do in any new city? Walk. Exploring on foot is the best way to get a feel for a place. You have the flexibility to go anywhere you want. Take a hidden alleyway, or go up the main street – it is up to you. Not only is walking adaptable to any route, but the slow movement also allows you to absorb the surrounding moment.
However, if you want to avoid the tourists, don’t always go straight for the free walking tours. These are an excellent way to meet people and get to know a city. They are particularly popular in Europe when people want to learn more about history and culture. However, you could find all these places on your own. You can experience the history and culture for yourself. Plus, there is a time scale with a tour. If you are aiming for the authentic experience, explore at your own pace. If you really like a spot, choose to stay for a while. Stand out from the crowds, rather than following them.
Don’t shut off your senses
Music can be a great enhancer of a moment. Listening to it on a long walk is a relaxing and simple joy. But, sometimes it’s good to avoid headphones when in a new place. Walking offers the opportunity to immerse yourself within the reality, day-to-day life of a foreign place. With music, you are actively cutting off one of the senses that makes this experience immersive. The sounds of a city are unique to that location. Experience it fully by noticing the range of noises around you. The shouts of market sellers, clinking cutlery, coffee machines, humming conversation – these subtle sounds make up a city. Don’t let yourself miss them.
Phones are similarly distracting. Travel is an exceptional experience, and before we go, we think we will appreciate every moment. We would never imagine that we would check Facebook in the hub of an exciting new place. Yet we all do it. Once again, we actively restrict our senses. We shut off our eyesight, engaging in the displays of a screen instead. However, our minds are also distracted. We can enjoy travel in the joy of the present moment. Therefore, there is such enjoyment and happiness lost in a time of distraction by a phone.
Don’t want to be just another tourist with a selfie stick? Put the phone away, and enjoy authentic, immediate experience.
One feature of a classic tourist is being in a rush. With a list of sites to see, ticking them off takes a lot of rushing energy. Tourist attractions are not a bad thing. They are popular for a purpose and usually historical and cultural landmarks. Yet they are not the only way to get to know a city. Indeed, just going around them is probably the worst way. Looking for the authentic local experience? Do what the locals are doing.
Sit in a café and read a newspaper or a book. Talk to friends on tables outside, or just sit and watch the daily life rush past. If you are traveling cheap, avoid the coffees – a bench, a park or a beach or just as good places for people watching. All these things have one key thing in common: stillness.
Being active is great, and indeed, it gets a lot done. But don’t place unnecessary pressure on yourself. You can never see everything. So try to see the things that no one else does. The routines of local everyday life are just as great things to witness as famous landmarks.
Slow Travel is an excellent way to gain authentic local experience. It separates you from the fast, tourist crowds. You might not see as much, but you will have more appreciation for the things you do see. Try to make everything you do be slow and mindful, to ground yourself in the present moment. This way, you will notice the little things. The small moments possibly reveal most about a place. By practicing slow travel, you can see them clearly.
One way to do this is to invest your time in slow activities like drawing, writing and reading or walking. Things that favor simplicity over efficiency make the moment immersive. After all, travel is not a chore. You don’t have to rush from one place to the next. Relax and enjoy a hobby. Draw the local scene or write about a particular thing – the energy of a market, the meeting of friends, or the wholeness of a day.
If you are in traveling in Europe, slowness adheres to the stereotypical European lifestyle. The idea of slow food developed in Italy. People realized that such delicious cuisine deserved undivided attention. Countries like those in the Mediterranean have always praised themselves for more leading relaxed lifestyles. Less working hours, more breaks, less intensity – more life enjoyment. Join in – be a local, slow down and live the moment.
Avoiding the tourist scene does not mean you cannot see the famous sites. Of course, most cultural landmarks are amazing for a reason. They have been preserved and celebrated for the very purpose of your enjoyment. It would be restrictive to any travel experience to deny every tourist attraction. It is also unnecessary. Still, want the local experience? It lies in a balance.
Balance tourist centers with local neighborhoods. Balance grand landmarks with cute hidden buildings. Balance main roads with dark side streets. Balance famous restaurants with independent cafes. In general, balance enhances your traveling. You can witness the best of both worlds – the central tourist hubs and the hidden gems of local knowledge.
You can practice stillness and slowness in between more pressures periods. Travel can always, unfortunately, be stressful. Sometimes, a train needs to be rushed for, and a ‘to see’ list is too tempting to ignore. This does not mean you will miss the authentic local experience. Ultimately, just do what suits you best, and find your own balanced way of traveling.