My first solo overseas adventure was to Australia. While I was there, I met two amazing ladies, one Swedish one Argentinian, and we decided to road trip the entire east coast of Australia. One of our stops we couch surfed with an Aussie politician named Justin. One night while out with Justin, we are telling stories and made the comment, “Branden, you’re a traveler, not a tourist.” I instantly knew what he meant and realized the impact this had on myself.
The Difference of Traveller vs. Tourist
What Justin was implying, is that certain people, travelers, go overseas for more than just the beautiful scenery or attractions we see on TV. Us travelers enjoy everything the country has to offer. For me, going overseas means becoming a local as much as possible from the second I step on the ground. Yes, I may see the amazing sites and popular attractions, but after that, I distance myself. I love getting caught up in the local culture and discovering low-key nature spots.
The tourists come for a vacation and like to follow their guidebook or online reviews. They have a comfort zone that they do not want to step out of and there is nothing wrong with that. For me though, the real experience starts after I leave my comfort zone.
Traveler: A day in the Life as a Local
Before I go, I will do as much research as I can on a place. My travel homework so to speak. If I can’t find much, then when I first get to my destination, I will talk to the locals that I can and get some insight. I want to take a piece of this place home with me that doesn’t require me to carry anything physical.
Popular Neighborhoods – every place has its popular areas the locals like to hang out. If I can, then I want to be right there with them. Different neighborhoods come with different culture and meaning. Making a trip to certain parts of town really can give me a different aspect of their culture. Within these neighborhoods hide locals’ favorite stores, street food vendors, bars, and more. For me, I don’t want to eat anywhere that the majority of the population are foreign.
Public transport – public transport is the majority means of transport for the locals. Not only does taking public transport gives me a more scenic route but allows me a chance to converse with the locals who I have found more often than not, are always up for a good chat. Even if you two have a language barrier. I have gained indefinite knowledge of places from taking public transport.
Couchsurfing – a lot of people have mixed feelings about this topic and I understand, but I absolutely love it. I’ve met some of the most amazing people from all over the world through this website. There really is no better way to get a local experience than staying with a local.
Tips to Becoming a Better Traveler
- Learn how to be polite in their language. Seriously, it goes a long way.
- Eating their staple foods. Sometimes, this can be my biggest leap out of my comfort zone.
- Visiting/understanding their religious sanctions.
- Attending local music/entertainment gigs. Music is my favorite thing on this planet so I always make it a point to discover new music ____ to where I’m at.
- Pick and choose your haggle battles. I will not bother someone if they quote me anything less than a dollar or two.
I never forget to enjoy the tourist’s attractions as well. They are popular for a reason and shouldn’t be ignored for the reason it’s surrounded by tourists.