Learning How To Be More Than Just A Tourist

Lifestyle, Self, Travel / Monday, March 20th, 2017

I read a short article over the weekend called 5 Signs You’re a Tourist, Not a Traveler and it got me thinking about the evolution of our travel habits. When my husband and I first started traveling internationally, we were total newbies at the entire experience. We had been all over the United States but when you go to a foreign country for the first time it can be challenging in more ways than one. We had many “firsts” like learning how to travel by train and communicating in another language. Because of the intimidating nature of doing something you’ve never done before, most people stick with things they know and are comfortable with, like chain hotels, non-exotic restaurants (definitely no street food), and all the major sightseeing spots they’ve seen on television and in movies. I’m not saying that you should go out of your way to avoid  seeing something like the Colosseum or the Sagrada Família, as you should definitely make it a point to visit such incredible landmarks. But maybe focus less on accomplishing your checklist and more on the experience itself.

In the above mentioned article, there are a handful of suggestions to eat, stay, and play like a local, thus becoming more of a traveler and less of a tourist. The first suggestion is to avoid a five-star hotel and opt instead for a traditional house. I completely agree that you should avoid the traditional hotel and go for something locally owned, maybe not a house if that isn’t in your budget, but you can find apartments for short-term rentals pretty easily as well as locally-owned bed & breakfasts. Some of our best experiences have been apartments with small kitchens and terraces. There is nothing better than ending a long day of trekking around than enjoying a nice bottle of wine on your own private terrace. My husband loves to cook and we’ve always found local markets to have everything to prepare a simple meal. A bed and breakfast can give you the same kind of privacy and authentic experience, plus you can get to know the owner, who many times is more than happy to recommend things to do that aren’t in the guidebooks. Not to mention the included breakfast, which in our experience has been over-the-top in quality, variety, and ambience in every B&B we’ve been to.

Here are a few more things I would recommend to be more than just a tourist:

+ The power of picnicking

Picnicking is a great way to mingle with locals and take in a sight. For example, pack up a picnic lunch and spend the afternoon gazing up at the Eiffel Tower, rather than waiting in line for hours to reach the top. There are plenty of places in Paris to get great city views, so we really enjoyed relaxing beneath it. A pashmina scarf easily doubles as a picnic blanket.

+ Test your tastebuds

You’ll see many familiar chain restaurants in large foreign cities, but don’t put your appetite into autopilot. This is where asking your B&B owner for some recommendations can really help. You’ll discover foods you’ve never tried before, or variations on old familiar dishes. Don’t be afraid of street food, either. If there’s a line of locals at the place, it must be good.

+ Watch your wardrobe

A tourist looks like a tourist but a traveler tries to assimilate. Spend some time researching the dress of the country you’re going to. Time of year makes a difference here too. When we first traveled to Europe in the summer, men weren’t really wearing shorts. So instead, my husband opted for a light pair of khaki pants. I don’t carry a large camera bag and we don’t wear anything that advertises a sports team.

+ Skip the souvenir shops

I avoid the trinket shops peddling mass-produced items (most likely not even made in the home country). Rather than a cheap magnet, bottle opener, or key chain try to bring home something hand-made or something that the region is known for. Jewelry, pottery, and linens are great options because they are things you’ll actually use. I do make an effort to find unique Christmas ornaments, which is something that has become a bit of a tradition for us, but I prefer to find them in artisan shops and hand-made markets.

+ Stash the selfie stick

We do have a selfie stick and it has served as a great way for us to get pictures as a couple since we travel alone. However, we never bring it out in crowded places, museums, or anywhere else where we might be a nuisance to others. We certainly don’t walk around with it protruding from our body. So if you do have one, just be conscientious. Snap a quick photo and then put it away. You can post to social media later. Take the time to live in the moment and enjoy just being where you are.

All of the above photos are from our most recent time in Paris. Passez une bonne journée!

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Learning How To Be More Than Just A Tourist appeared first on Cathedrals & Cafés.


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