There are as many ways to travel as there are places to visit, cultures to be discovered and experiences to be had. However, whilst being a traveller is great and enjoying the tourist sights is fine, what happens if you want to go that extra bit further?
Setting aside the fact that of course, you can never truly become a local if you’re just visiting a place, no matter how many times you have visited, you can, on the other hand still immerse yourself in the culture and live like a local. Living like a local allows us to go beyond the norm, and shape our trip to exactly how we want it to be.
However, paving your way as a local does not mean that you give up on being a tourist; rather, your journey will go beyond the traditional tourist activities, resulting in some unforgettable memories.
Step 1: Break free from expectations
So, how exactly can you live like a local when visiting a new place? This a topic I have pondered over greatly each time I visit a new city. One key thing I have learnt is that a trip should be tailored exactly the way you want it to be, rather than what you think is expected. Just because you’re visiting somewhere new, doesn’t mean that you can only be sucked into the tourist traps. After all, you wouldn’t spend your weekend at home visiting the most popular spots, would you?
Step 2: Step off the beaten track
Now, I'm not saying that I don't think that if you go to Paris you should not picnic under the Eiffel Tower. In fact, on my most recent trip, I did exactly that for an afternoon. I’m simply saying that it’s ok to go off the beaten track, discover some of the hidden gems of the city and blend in with the local culture. We might not always fit in, but we can try.
Step 3: Finding friendly locals
I've discovered that the best way to learn about what to do and see in a place is to ask locals. Whilst this may be a daunting idea to most, there's a good chance they'll share insights into their culture in ways that you wouldn't notice if you were just passing through. They'll have a much better idea of what's fun to do, what's a tourist trap, where to avoid, where to dine, and so on. You never know, you may even accidentally find yourself in amongst the locals.
Step 4: Immerse yourself into local culture
Some of my best trips have been when I stumbled across a local hotspot. Having prepared myself for a weekend filled with carbs on a trip to Venice, I was the most surprised when I stumbled across my first bacaro bar and discovered that Venice is more known for Cicchetti, the Venetian version of tapas. Small dishes topped with incredibly tasty seafood - I couldn’t get enough of them. Whilst my original expectations quickly left, a weekend of bacaro bar hopping hit the spot for my trip.
I must add, the main reason for stumbling across these bacaro bars, was arrivng off season. I noticed the city was scattered with large, tourist focused restaurants, playing up to Italian expectations. With many being closed, or lacking in tourists, I noticed the life emerging from the nooks and crannies of the city, with people standing at the bars enjoying morning espresso's or an afternoon spritz' whist indulging in what I found out to be Cicchetti. It didn't take much for curiosity to get the better of me and take on this lifestyle for the myself.
Step 5: Pave your own journey
I often wonder if I would have found out about the Venetian bacaro bars if I hadn’t gone off the beaten track. If I had stayed by the waterfront, dined in St. Mark’s Square surrounded by the other travellers, would I have even known about Cicchetti? Would I have just dined on pasta and pizza all weekend simply because I was in Italy? I paved my own journey on my trip, resulting in an unforgettable experience, exploring a new city.