As a keen traveler, I have been lucky enough to immerse myself in many different cultures. It’s the best – and only, in my opinion – way to see a country. Forget your five-star hotels and expensive resorts; I much prefer getting to know the locals.
But what happens if you plan on taking a shorter break? Is it still possible to get that special feeling connection that can occur on longer trips?
While you won’t have the time to understand a place entirely, there are a few things you can do to make your vacation a lot more immersive. I’ve put together some tips for you to think about for the next time you book a breakaway.
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Before you head off on your vacation, I recommend learning about local customs. It will help you feel far more comfortable about approaching people when you know the etiquette of a particular city or country. And, it will help you avoid any awkwardness when trying to make some new friends. Some peculiar customs might surprise you. For example, on my travels in Thailand, I quickly found out it was considered highly offensive to touch someone’s head. And while some customs might seem quaint, there are other more serious issues to think about. If you’re a woman, you wouldn’t want to wear a short skirt in Dubai, for example.
Avoid the hotels
The hotels and resorts you see advertised are often in tourist areas. While they can be great for a relaxing break, it’s far too easy to avoid the local culture. The good news is that there are so many more places to stay these days. AirBnB is a godsend for people wanting to dive into a local area, and youth hostels also tend to be located in the heart of bustling communities. You can still enjoy a little luxury, too. Using vacation rentals, for example, will give a lovely place to stay but also the opportunity to fend for yourself. You’ll get to use the local shops and markets for your food, and choose the right location and you can end up right in the middle of a non-touristy area.
Follow the locals for awesome food
If you see a restaurant that plenty of locals use, make sure you check it out. It’s almost guaranteed to give you a more authentic, local experience than the food outlets on the main drags. I always see traveling as the perfect time to experience new food. There’s little point in traipsing halfway across the world just to eat burgers and fries, right?
Let yourself go
When you have traveled a lot, you quickly understand how uptight us westerners can look to other cultures. But if you can let yourself go and just enjoy yourself, there’s a splendid time to be had. You will find that people are friendly and want to get to know you. They will be helpful, and look out for you. And there’s a good chance you will develop strong friendships if you just get out there and chat to people. Of course, you have to be careful in some part of the world. But the vast majority of the planet is inhabited by great people – so go meet them!