Looking to explore more off the beaten path travel?
Every trip I take, I make it a point to speak with locals. It doesn’t have to be a deep moving conversation (though it can be if the interaction moves that way), but I always make a strong effort to connect in some way.
My favorite way to do this is to ask a specific question when chatting with hostel staff or taxi drivers or store clerks (I generally veer away from hotel staff because there are sometimes partnerships and the recommendation can be based on that rather than their true opinion). Those are the people whose perspective I crave. I love guide books, and there is no replacement for a well-researched blog post, but there is incredible value in seeking information when you’re there and on the ground.
What is your favorite thing about your city that visitors are likely to miss?
Its so mind-numbingly simple, but yet that little question serves a a few huge functions:
- It tells whomever you’re speaking with that you value their specific opinion.
- It has the power to impact their ideas about you and the nation you represent.
- And, in the end, you get to learn about something you might not have known existed had you not approached someone who actually lives there.
I’ve had people shyly recommend some of the touristy spots stating that they truly thought it was something special. I’ve had others tell me about tiny restaurants that serve a huge, delicious breakfast for $1.80. I even had one guy walk me up a pagoda tower to show me what he thought was so special (it was high, I was scared, and it might’ve been breaking a law… but it was so cool).
My goal in having a prefab question in my pocket is that it functions as a friendly ice-breaker at worst, and an information gathering tool at best. Though I tend to be on the “scary extrovert girl” end of the spectrum, I understand the idea of approaching someone in another country can seem silly and uncomfortable. The benefits of learning something new about a place and/or its people is totally worth the moment of discomfort. You walk away a better person, and you leave them feeling valued.
Other questions to try (on locals or to break ice with other travelers!):
- What is the best place to try (specific local food)?
- If you could only recommend one thing to see/eat while in town, what would it be?
- Are there any local customs I should be sensitive to?
- How do I say “hello/thank you/please/sorry” in (language)?
- What is the coolest neighborhood in the city?
So go forth and communicate with the locals in your next destination. If it’s a few cities away or on the other side of the globe, seeing the city like a local makes for a great experience, story, and inspiration for what to search out on future trips!
- What has been the best recommendation from a local that you’ve received?
- Do you have any tips or tricks that you employ to make sure you’re seeing items that are “off the beaten path” or lesser-known?