When I attended TBEX a few weeks ago (travel blogging conference), I started thinking: what’s my stance as a traveler? How do I travel? What makes me unique?
I realized that I, along with my family, like to travel like a local. What does that mean? You won’t find us in line at the Eiffel Tower (one bad experience was enough for me!). We eat better food than most tourists. We don’t come home exhausted. Here’s how we live like locals, no matter where we are.
1. Rent a House or Apartment
I’m such a big proponent of renting from AirBnB.com or another vacation rental site. Why? Many reasons:
We get more room for the same price as a hotel…or less
We’re not situated in the touristy area of town
Sometimes the owners go above and beyond to help us have authentic experiences
I like to see how people live in a city
We ended up in Pignans in Provence simply because the house had the criteria we were looking for. We got to know a corner of Provence we might not have sought out on our own! The same goes for Saorge.
2. Shop in Grocery Stores
I love, love, love shopping in stores in other countries. What’s this for? How does it taste? What’s different from back home? Not only do we find exciting new foods to try (and ship home), but it also helps us eat healthier. I feel restless and crappy when I eat out for too many meals in a row. Having a house with a fridge means we always have fruits and veggies and snacks, and we like cooking with local ingredients.
3. Skip the Tourist Traps
It’s not important to us that we see all the sites that everyone else goes to in a region. Some, sure, are on the list. But I like visiting the church crypts. The tiny kids’ museums. The markets. These aren’t always in your touristy guidebooks, and that’s okay.
I suggest finding a website geared toward locals in a city that lists events and happenings rather than a tourism website to start.
4. Pick Up a Local Entertainment Newspaper
Same concept as #3. Every city has those weekly readers geared toward locals. It’s here you’ll find out about the beer fest or the obscure band playing at the bar down the street from your apartment. Because the tourism industry isn’t pumping money into these papers, you’ll likely be one of few tourists at these events.
5. Hire a Tour Guide
This seems like a touristy thing to do, and it’s something I never thought I’d be into until I went to Genoa with my mom. Our tour guide, Francesca, essentially showed us her neighborhood. Not the tourist area. In fact, we never saw the port, which is a “must see” in the tour books. Instead, she took us to her friend’s pesto shop, greeted the butcher by name, and showed us an old apothecary shop. I enjoyed this so much, I want to build tours into all my trips!
6. Take a Cooking Class
Again, not an obvious way to live like a local, and probably most locals don’t take cooking classes, but it’s a great way to get a peek at what cooking in that region is like. In Genoa, I fell in love with pesto in a cooking class. I also learned from my instructors how it used to be commonplace for a family to gather and prepare homemade pasta every Sunday, but how modern life has put a damper on this tradition. Good local lore.
7. Live Like You Would at Home
This tip comes from my husband and son, who spend half of any trip on their computers, where I would rather go-go-go and see more of the city. When you travel for several weeks the way we do, you’ve got to have downtime. Doing what you’d do at home (playing Minecraft, reading a book, napping) can help you feel stable and less stressed, so let’s all take a note from my boys on this one!
We get the most satisfaction out of a city when we pretend that we’re local and look at the city with that lens on.