You can tell the difference between a traveler and a tourist through their travel style. Do they use taxis or the metro and buses? Do they eat at well-known food chains or fancy restaurants or at local ones? Do they go off the beaten path or always choose to visit the main landmarks? Do they spend their time shopping or discovering every bit of the city? Here are 10 reasons why you should go local on your travels.
Avoiding luxury at all cost
You have to understand that luxury can be found everywhere, and it all feels the same, defined in one word: “pampering”. You can pamper yourself for a day or two, but if you choose luxury for the whole trip, then forget about having an enriched experience or even getting a real sense of place.
Avoid eating from big food chains – come on, you can eat there back home! Other than being cheaper and tastier, this is how you will truly get a sense of place. You will also get to see – live and not on some travel show – how your food is cooked and served. Can you imagine a trip to Egypt without eating foul, ta’miyah, kebda, sogo2 and koshari? Drinking 2asab? Or a trip to Lebanon without eating mana2ish and safi7a? Your experience will be way far from being complete.
Because not everything can be eaten “on the go” – like molokheya and 7amam – and enjoying the culture of eating at a local restaurant is not to miss. You might get a stomachache, but where else will you get such an experience? (Always carry anti-diarrhea pills and you’re good to go!)
Using public transport
This is the optimum chance to mingle with the community, while witnessing their day-to-day life. And in some countries, it will be an opportunity to try some crazy driving in horrible traffic!
Whenever you’re feeling nostalgic, two things can bring back all your memories of a place: food and music. Whenever you miss a city, turn on your favorite tunes of their local music and find your favorite recipe of their local cuisine to cook. It’s the next best thing to physically being there.
Nearly every café in Egypt serves shisha and drinks, but in local cafes it’s not the same – they don’t have menus, the waiters know the items by heart and the way things are served and the variety of shisha flavors and drinks are not served elsewhere. You can play tawla and dominoes and talk to strangers with whom, before you know it, you’re exchanging life stories.
Don’t plan everything ahead
When preparing for a trip, it’s always better to plan ahead or at least know roughly what you are going to do. However, you have to be open to changes in plans. You can always ask locals where to go, stay, eat, etc. – they are the most reliable trip advisers.
Buying local souvenirs
Okay, most of us like to buy magnets to display on their fridge or snow globes. I personally like that, too, but most of all, I like to buy something that reminds me of the country and was made and sold by a local, helping to give back to the community in some way, be it a hand-woven shawl, a painting of beautifully written Arabic letters, a commonly-worn shirt, anything that can be hung or carried and can take me back to that place.
WE SAID THIS: Check out “11 Things I Learned from Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro“.