Sometimes we get so carried away in planning a trip to include each and every tourist activity that we forgo the opportunity to completely immerse ourselves in a new culture. Without a unique cultural immersion experience, we’ll miss out on so much. Though it’s easy to do it, let’s be intentional in not forgetting to stop and smell the roses… here are several things that you need to do when you travel.
Meet the Locals
If you want to go beyond observing as a tourist, you need to meet and interact with locals. If you’re traveling alone this is easy enough to do… find yourself in a common area like a public market, or meet up with some strangers one afternoon at a local pub. If you’re traveling with friends or family, simply go out of your way to interact with locals: ask lots of questions, take their recommendations, ask about local activities that may be off the beaten tourist path that would enhance your trip. You’ll walk away from the traveling experience with a great understanding of the place you visited if you have these rich and robust conversations with its residents.
Observe Daily Life of People in Foreign Places
We highly encourage you to take a little time every day to observe normal life for the people in the foreign places you visit. For example, have your morning coffee in a nearby market every morning at the same time. What do you see? Chances are you’ll see the same people coming and going in their daily lives, maybe to retrieve fresh ingredients for their day’s meals, for example. Observing other cultural norms will help provide perspective in your own life, and give you a greater understanding of what life is like for other people.
Take More Photos Than You Think You’ll Need
With the technology available to us today, there’s no reason you should scrimp on photos. Be generous in photographing parts of your trip that might not scream, “Take the picture”, like breakfast on the balcony of the Air Bnb you stayed at. In 20 years, you’ll be fully aware of that tourist attraction and you’ll remember going and have the picture to prove it, but wouldn’t it also be nice to remember small details, too?
Eat Local Food
If you can find your way out of tourist trap restaurants and to a local market, do it. Take recommendations from local citizens and go out of your way to eat the local food. This will provide an experience unlike any other. After all, nearly every “type” of food is available in the United States but rarely is it as authentic as what you’d encounter locally.
Keep a Journal of Your Adventures Abroad
Write it down… write it all down. Keep a journal of your day to day adventures, and jot down details that you don’t want to miss years from now: what you ate throughout the day, the conversation you had with a local resident in the market, the way you feel laying your head down at night after complete cultural immersion. Take 15-20 minutes at the start of every day to jot down the happenings of the day before, and you will never regret it.
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