Learn all the hacks to upgrade and optimize your life, money and travel – all while spending less and saving more.
👋 Hello Reader,
Throughout my travels to over 60 countries, I've had the most incredible experience when I ditched my tourist hat and immersed myself in the local way of life.
Today, we're diving into the art of traveling like a local. It's all about breaking free from typical experiences and fully embracing the culture of the places you visit. Whether you're a seasoned traveler or just starting your journey, these insights and tricks will enhance your travel experiences and leave you with unforgettable memories.
Having had the chance to engage with experienced travelers on the podcast, I've compiled six tips for you to travel like a local:
Let’s dive into each one.
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Here's a pro tip when plotting your next adventure: skip the mainstream travel sources.
Local websites, blogs, and advice from residents or savvy journalists offer the real treasures you won't find in your typical travel guide. Platforms like TripAdvisor can be a jumble of opinions, making it challenging to uncover genuine hotspots. So, if you're on the hunt to feel like a local, trust content from locals.
Let’s take food, for example.
Focus your planning on reliable local sources like Le Fooding (for France), Gambero Rosso (for Italy), and Tabelog (for Japan). These sources expertly combine quality and atmosphere, providing you with curated and insider insights.
Social media can also be your unexpected ally. I love following local journalists or city/country-specific channels (like Food Story Highlight from @paris.explore). Sometimes, I’ll search Instagram or Twitter to see if I can find some fresh insights on where to explore.
The key takeaway is prioritizing quality recommendations from sources with genuine local knowledge – ensuring you're tapping into the most authentic and insider information.
Instead of being bound by a tight schedule, put on your most comfortable shoes and step outside.
Your mission is to soak in the location's pace, rhythm, and soul. You're not chasing famous landmarks or ticking items off your checklist; you're simply strolling until the place unfolds its secrets. This approach encourages you to slow down and savor the everyday elements that make a place truly unique.
Take 7-Eleven in Japan. While there, I stumbled upon the most delicious premade pancakes in the world. Another time in Kenya, I decided to get a local haircut. Both experiences were unexpectedly amazing.
This doesn't mean traditional sightseeing is off-limits, just that you should be allocating a decent amount of unplanned time to explore.
For the anxious bunch, you can wander aimlessly without worry and easily find your way back using Google Maps (you can even download maps to use offline if you don’t want to use int’l data).
So next time you travel, give yourself the luxury of just "being" in the moment, and I bet you’ll find yourself forging an even deeper connection with that place.
Remember your backpacking days when every penny counted? Back then, choosing public transportation was a no-brainer. Even with more resources now, there's immense value in those thrifty adventures. Public transportation isn't just a money-saver; it's the key to unlocking the city's essence.
Public transportation isn't solely about getting from point A to point B; it's about the experience and exploring the places in between. As you ride, you'll start to understand a city through the people getting on and off at each stop. You might even get a unique perspective on the city's layout through its transit maps.
And don't fret about navigating unfamiliar systems. You'd be surprised by how helpful locals can be when you're lost. I’ve been helped many times – these small yet unforgettable interactions make your journey memorable.
So, on your next trip, make it a challenge to try public transportation. It will save you money, deepen your understanding of the place, and open doors to meaningful encounters with locals.
When you step into a new place, make it a ritual to start with a visit to a food market – they are often the heart and soul of many cities.
And it's not just about the food; it's an immersion into local culture, traditions, and everyday life. As you navigate a market, think of it as though you're gathering stories. It's like a crash course in understanding the people, their eating habits, and even their haggling styles. You can learn a lot by simply watching and engaging in this lively atmosphere.
One way to level up this experience is with a guided tour. An experienced local can help you navigate the market, provide some background and history, introduce you to some of the best foods, and answer any questions you have. It's like a fast track to understanding the local way of life.
Another option to level up the experience is to join a cooking class that shows you how to cook with the local ingredients (and often starts with a trip to the market). It's these unexpected moments, like discovering a unique fruit or tasting a local delicacy, that truly define your journey.
And it's not limited to food markets; market squares in various places offer intriguing glimpses into daily life. You might chance upon a friendly vendor or even a soccer match out front.
In the end, remember that the locals aren't usually queuing up for the most famous tourist spots, but immersing yourself in these experiences can help you create unique memories and connections to the daily rhythm of a place.
Here's some travel advice that's both simple and life-changing: put your phone away.
This simple act will allow you to position yourself in the present moment and open yourself up for serendipitous encounters. Some of the most unforgettable moments begin with being present.
For example, a simple "hello" to a stranger could lead to engaging conversations and unexpected experiences. In my experience, people are naturally curious and eager to share their perspectives and steer you clear of overly touristy paths. That being said, think of it as a two-way exchange. You're not just there to take but to give as well. Consider how you can be generous to the people and places you visit. This mindset of reciprocity can lead to goodwill, leaving a positive mark wherever you go.
I know it's not always easy – social situations like this can be daunting, but a little push outside your comfort zone can go a long way.
There's one more tip – a mindset shift that can truly transform your travel experience. It's about admitting your own ignorance and embracing it. There's a tendency among well-traveled folks to make travel a competition.
It's easy to say, "I know this place inside out; I don't need help getting around." But the truth is, you'll never know as much as someone who lives there, who grew up there.
To put yourself in a position to capitalize on serendipity, remember these three keys:
By doing so, you'll have incredible travel experiences and create lasting memories that stay with you long after your journey ends.
This especially happens when you travel solo.
While you're traveling, imagine you're simply living your everyday life.
At home, you cook your meals, right? Well, instead of always dining at pricey restaurants when you're abroad, try cooking local foods with fresh local ingredients (maybe from the market you went to). It's a fantastic way to taste the true flavors of the place you're visiting.
Or, rather than booking a hotel near the usual tourist spots, consider staying in residential neighborhoods. They offer a sneak peek into daily life beyond the touristy façade. Some of the local restaurants we’ve found in residential neighborhoods have been our favorite meals in a new place.
If you're all about budget-friendly activities, then apply that principle to your travels. Walk around, use public transportation, and find a cozy spot to chill. Sometimes, the best part of a trip is simply existing in that place and feeling its unique vibes.
Think about your hometown – people there follow a routine: work, take the bus, shop for groceries, and maybe relax in a park. Guess what? It's not so different in other parts of the world. If you have kids, I suggest taking them to the local playground. Not only is it a good glimpse into local life, but it can help take your kids out of their language comfort zone and expose them to a new culture as well.
So, the next time you're on a trip, take a day or two and just imagine you're living as you do at home. Cook some of your meals, explore residential areas, and engage in the daily rhythms of the locals.
You'll discover what's special about the place and connect with the universal aspects of life that unite us all.
These five podcast episodes inspired this newsletter – listen here for more travel tips from these experts.
Exploring the world like a local is your key to unlocking the true potential of your travel experiences.
If you have any unique tips or hacks for traveling like a local, please feel free to share them with us by replying to this email or sending me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!
If you like this post, you’ll love my posts on 6 Lessons to Optimize Your Points and Miles so you can get the most out of your travels (without breaking the bank).
by Chris Hutchins
Learn all the hacks to upgrade and optimize your life, money and travel – all while spending less and saving more.
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