The well-worn traveller and the fresh tourist – one is immersed and fully experiences the places he has been to while the other touches briefly and never truly understands the culture and scenes he has come to be a part of. Truly, travelling is not about going to a destination to accomplish specific objectives but being immersed in the experience, culture, and people.
A pre-planned itinerary, sunglasses and a camera on hand while hopping the famous tourist spots sounds like the typical travel plan. However, it is certainly not the most rewarding. Instead of staying in our comfort zones, why not try to breathe in local sights and experiences, seeing what each country and location has to offer fully. Wanna know how to stop being a tourist and start being a traveller? Here are some tips to change your outlook on travelling!
Pick up the local language
No, we’re not talking about knowing how to say ‘hi’ and ‘good morning’. We’re talking about various basic phrases that can help you communicate with locals about their way of life and culture. At the same time, you may encounter locals who can speak a common language with you and getting connected with them in their local language can open other lines of conversation and break down social barriers. After all, knowing someone who has made an effort to learn your language is often something that impresses the locals!
Take public transport
Not only is this wallet-friendly, taking public transport can allow you to explore the city like a local. Most public transport systems can bring you to amazing areas in the city to see something interesting and new. The unknown destinations add an element of surprise to your journey that can transform any ‘planned tour’ into a ‘grand adventure’. Public transport that locals commonly use can also allow you to explore the hidden views that a conventional tour would tend to skip in the interest of time. The freedom to explore and learn your way around could allow you to see more parts of your destination that you might end up falling in love with it even more.
In addition, public transport provides one of the best places to chat with the locals. You might even find them surprisingly friendly and get recommendations from a local that is likely to be more reliable than tourist sites like Tripadvisor. They might even offer to show you around or make arrangements to catch a meal with you. Keep your eyes open for opportunities, and you never know when one might find you!
Rather than packing for exact plans and planning the itinerary to the minute, leave some room for adventure and spontaneity. Move around with the larger plan, but don’t be so rushed that you can’t explore an interesting corner, get a bite at a local deli or catch a conversation with a friendly local. Is that Instagram picture really that important? How about having a fun and fantastic experience that you can look back to years ahead?
Walk a couple of blocks down from your initial destination or check out that local deli you see locals frequenting rather than the huge establishment that only tourists check out. Stay a little to chat with a local that seems friendly and take them up on their offer for meals or to bring you to check out hidden gems.
However, spontaneity doesn’t mean unpreparedness. Being prepared is a big part of staying safe, and we always advocate for safety and awareness, especially in a new place. Check up local hotlines and read up on the security for various local areas. Know which areas potentially dangerous for tourists without a local guide, and how you can prevent yourself from being pickpocketed. Checking out a local district that is known for certain dangerous traits? Don’t head into dark places by yourself, and always stick with friends or a crowd. Going on a hike? Note down the best air ambulance service hotlines in need of emergency evacuations. It never hurts to be safe!
Live like the locals
Whether you are willing to live as the locals do is something that defines your attitude towards travelling. Choosing an Airbnb or even renting a local apartment could be a better alternative than the fancy hotel in the city. While hotels provide us with every convenience and most likely eliminate any language barrier, it lacks the distinct touch that local homes have.
In the rental or Airbnb, you also have the freedom to live as you please, so long as it is within what you have agreed with the owners. Staying in a local apartment also puts you within the local neighbourhood. You could walk along the paths, and you will probably experience local life more than your friends in the hotel.
Plus, local stores and businesses around the area are most likely not found in your home country. Visiting the stalls that locals are called regulars will most likely guarantee the best local fare in town. Supporting the local businesses is also a small way to keep the spirit of the neighbourhood alive till your next visit.
Make new friends
Most people have social anxiety in new places, but one thing that can change things is a local friend who can teach you the ins and outs of things. Yes, it may be uncomfortable, but often being in someplace new forces us to take a step out of our comfort zone and start conversations with people we usually might not do so with. Who knows, you might even form some long-lasting connections and be the one to guide them when they come over to your country instead!
Keep an open mind
Experiencing the new sights, smells, and sounds of a travel destination is what being a traveller is all about. There are bound to be things you have not seen or experienced, which might make you fearful. However, remind yourself that it is all part of the trip and embrace whatever strange or novel item has thrown your way. Being prepared to be open about these experiences can lead you to your next big adventure, your next favourite food or even your next best friend.
Travelling is more than just the famous landmarks and shopping malls. Going off schedule and visiting lesser-known areas may turn out to be more fulfilling than you imagine. The most treasured souvenir you reap will not be the fancy hoodie or fridge magnet you bought in the malls but the experience you gained from the trip itself. So stay safe, keep an open eye, and have your next great adventure the next time you travel!