It has never been easier or cheaper to travel the world.
Recent decades have seen an influx of major airline competitors offering discount fares, as well as many new airports opening – more airports equals more flights. The sharing economy has also opened up a whole new world of accommodation options for travellers once they reach their destinations. In addition to this, the gap year trend is rippling through to older generations – we are taking time out and seeking authentic ‘backpack’ style experiences whilst away, regardless of the length of the trip.
Culturally we’re stepping away from being holidaymakers, and moving on to becoming travellers. Many of us are becoming digital nomads, and taking our laptops and working as we see the world. The way to do that is be organised, obviously living in five star hotels is out of the question so instead we’re staying with locals – using apps and websites which have sprung up to cater to the new breed of world travellers.
But instead of treading the well-worn paths that tourists tend to travel, we crave authenticity. We want to know about and visit the hidden spots, the locals only beaches, the off-the-beaten-track food stalls – but it can be hard to find these… after all, if they were in all the guidebooks, they might not necessarily be as authentic, right? We’re craving new travel experiences instead of doing what everyone else has already done.
Here are six top ways to seek out and find authentic travel experiences and ‘live like a local’ throughout your trip abroad:
Eat with locals. There is no better way to literally get a taste of the local culture than by eating with a local. The sharing economy was made for food, really. VizEat is Europe’s largest social dining network and you can use the platform on your desktop or on mobile (iOS) to find locals in your travel destination to share an unforgettable and authentic travel experience. For example, a meal in their home or an “in the know” food tour of local producers.
Travel with locals. Get around like the locals. If the city you’re visiting is cycle friendly, like Copenhagen, for example, embrace that. Otherwise, use an app like GoEuro to help you navigate your way around the local public transport system. While you’re at it, take the road less travelled. When you purposefully turn left instead of right, or take a few turns off of the main high street, that’s when you’re more likely to find a quirky shop, hidden gem of a cafe, interesting park or even a secret back-beach depending on where you are!
Stay with a local. Thanks to platforms like Airbnb, this is no longer hard to do. Just jump on, search for your destination (there are hosts in over 191 countries – for the trivia buffs out there, that’s nearly all of them!) and request to stay. If you’re new to the platform or have any reservations about making a, ahem, reservation, just seek out the properties with lots of five star ratings and read through the user feedback.
Shop with the locals. This is made easier if you make the effort to learn a few words of the local language – ok so you mightn’t be able to fluently bargain for the best deals at markets and the like, but you will feel more confident in stepping off the well-trodden high street equivalent paths. Local markets, particularly those not right in the tourist hotspots, can provide hours worth of free (depending on how restrained you are!) people watching and local interaction. It’s a great way to observe first-hand the sights and smells and the cultural business and social interactions of your destination. Language learning apps like Duolingo can help you to pick up a few usual phrases to try out during your shopping expedition. In France? – C’est combien pour le vin?
Sightsee with the locals. When you’re in a new place, there’s nothing better than having a local guide to take you around. There are loads of commercial tours – both walking and via bus or car – available to be found and booked online but the best things in life are free, right? Well, free-ish. Free Walking Tours By Locals is just that – a nifty little collection of where around Europe that you can book in to go on a free tour run by, you guessed it, a local. Don’t forget to tip generously though – this is usually how the guides make their living.
Finally, plan… but not too much. Leave time in your itinerary for those unexpected, unforgettable travel experiences.