When you are travelling to new destinations with a view to immerse yourself in a culture, converse with the locals and sample the native cuisine, you are essentially a tourist. This doesn’t mean you want to stick out like a sore thumb with a telephoto lens-ed Nikon around your neck and gripping a guidebook like your life depended on it. Instead, you want to go where the locals go, eat what the locals eat and enjoy what the locals enjoy. To truly scratch your wanderlust itch you don’t want to be following the tourist crowds and seeing the ubiquitous tourist trap sights as these very rarely reflect the location which you are visiting.
Getting off the tourist trail means thinking outside the box and venturing outside of your comfort zone. You will enjoy a more authentic experience rather than braving the hordes of tourists. To visit a destination and not have a single conversation with a local does not encapsulate the ethos of travel. Take a look at how you can get off the tourist trail and enjoy the best travel experience of your life.
It doesn’t matter whether you are venturing further afield to distant shores like Asia or the Far East, hot-footing it to a neighbouring country or taking a jaunt to a bustling city, you will need a place to rest your weary bones. You may want to follow the usual backpacking trail and book yourself into a hostel or two. This can be great for chatting to fellow travellers and teasing out the sights they recommend that may be a little off the tourist trail.
If you are venturing to a capital city, consider staying a little outside the city walls. If you fancy a jaunt to Tokyo, consider staying in Kamakura, just a 40 minute train ride away. Full of temples, quieter and with a more authentic feel, you will enjoy a more grounded and genuine experience of the locality. If you are visiting the glorious Emerald Isle and you want to partake in a spot of Guinness in Dublin, think about staying at the Maldron Hotel, a couple of hours drive away. It’s more coastal, the bars won’t be full of tourists, and you can enjoy an authentic Irish experience.
To go one step further, you could even investigate the option of staying with a local family. Homestays are becoming more popular for travellers who want to live like a local and who want to immerse themselves within a culture for longer than a week or two. You will have the chance to sample home cooked grub, work alongside the family you are staying with and contribute to their social activities.
Learn The Language
If you want to get off the beaten track, you need to learn the language of the nation you are visiting. Shouting patronisingly and naively to locals is poor travel etiquette. Show some respect to the nations you are travelling to and enrol in an online language course before you even set foot on the plane. This will open up a whole new world to you as a traveller. You’ll be able to board trains, order different food and converse with locals in a bar. Knowledge of the culture and respect for the language will make your travel experience freer and more enjoyable.
There’s nothing wrong with bedding down inside a local cafe and watching life as it rolls by. It may come to lunchtime, and you have spotted a wonderful little bistro in your guidebook. The only problem is it is only tourists that frequent the place, and it serves gourmet westernised cuisine. Instead, watch where the locals go, see the cafes and bistros they venture into and try and spot the queues. If people are struggling to get through the door, you can be sure of an incredible authentic eating experience. Some places don’t even have signs outside, may only serve one dish and have no places to sit but it could still be the best meal you ever have in your life.
Getting off the tourist trail will make your vacation, your travel experience abroad or your trip around the globe so much more exciting and exhilarating. There’s nothing better than returning home and telling tales of your travels and realising that not one person listening to your stories have ever been, seen or experienced what you are regaling them with. Make sure you put in the groundwork, show respect to the nation you are travelling to, learn the language and truly immerse yourself in a new culture to facilitate your ability to go off piste and venture off the tourist trail.