Anis Salvesen is an avid traveler, polyglot and foodie. She travels a couple times a year to Europe and when home in the Bay Area takes as many weekend trips as she can. Her dream is to set foot on all 7 continents and (with the possible exception of Antarctica) thoroughly immerse herself in the local culture. You can connect with her and other fans of authentic travel on Tripping.
The most memorable travel moments occur when we dare to step off the beaten path and into the local culture. As our world becomes more homogenized, authentic travel experiences are increasingly rare. Fortunately there are some easy ways to make your next trip more colorful, meaningful and fun.
Live Like a Local
Step away from the tourist zones and live among the locals. Picture a Paris vacation where you stroll to your neighborhood bakery for fresh croissants and then linger over coffee as you sit above the Parisian rooftops on your private balcony. Or imagine exploring San Francisco all day and then coming home to a cozy sofa, fireplace and a glass of wine bottled in nearby Napa. By staying in a local vacation rental, you’ll get to experience not only the comforts of home but also the essence of the city and what it might be like to live there.
Eat Like a Local
Local cuisine always provides a unique (and tasty!) window into a culture. Dishes with names and ingredients you recognize might be tempting, but you’re definitely missing out if you don’t try the local food. Leave the tourist-filled restaurants behind and sample authentic dishes.
In many countries, the places to find the best local fare are not restaurants but rather food stalls (like at the Turkish Market pictured above). Sample the street food but – unless you want to experience the local health clinics – keep a few precautions in mind. Pick a vendor that is clearly popular; the locals know which vendors serve the best food. As a general rule in countries where the water quality is not high, stay away from uncooked food – particularly vegetables and fruits that don’t have a peel. Opt for foods cooked at high temperatures and freshly prepared right in front of you. If you’re unsure what to order, just look around and find out what the tastiest-looking dish is called. To be extra safe, consult a dictionary to make sure you know exactly what you’re eating. Mangia bene!
Shop Like a Local
Venture out to a local farmers market or grocer and sample the array of locally-grown food. You’ll no doubt encounter unfamiliar produce and discover hard-to-obtain-abroad delicacies. Many of these regional delicacies, such as cheeses or spices or traditional sweets, make excellent gifts for your friends back home.
You can also wander about a bazaar or areas with shops owned by local merchants for a sense of the local shopping scene. And if you can’t resist visiting the department stores or multinational chain stores as well, don’t worry. The locals shop there too. In the case of multinational stores, often the selection you find abroad is not the same as the one you find back home. And in the case of department stores, like Harrods in London and KaDeWe in Berlin, the stores themselves are often a destination for travelers and locals alike.
Make a Local Friend
What better way to dive into the local culture than to befriend someone who’s part of it? If you’re traveling in a country where you speak the local language fluently, you’re in luck. If you don’t speak the local language, don’t be afraid to try speaking the few words you do know. You’d be surprised how quickly people warm up when they see you’re willing to push the limits of your comfort zone.
These days, it’s really easy to connect with local people through social travel sites like Tripping. Locals are excited to show off their cities and you can arrange to meet them for coffee, home-cooked meals and even free homestays. Forget those Hop-On-Hop-Off tourist busses: start hanging out with locals and you might find yourself sledding in New York’s Central Park, salsa dancing in London or attending a wedding in a remote village in Nepal.
For more ideas on how to live like a local or stay in local vacation home rentals in 18,000 cities around the world, visit Tripping.com.