10 ways to meet locales when travelling

Argentinian friend in Holland

One of the biggest challenges I hear from those travelling is how and where do I met locales. Of course there are travellers who prefer to hang out with fellow travellers or fellow countryman. Many people though are looking for a more in-depth experience, and I personally am an enthusiastic anthropologist who loves to get to know foreign cultures on deeper level, as the very essence of a local society is shaped by past experiences and a rich history.

For example, in Sicily they don’t use the verb for the future tense, yes they learn it in school as they do throughout Italy, and however it’s not used or spoken in their everyday language. I discovered, or believe this comes from a ingrained past, where wealthy landowners gave the farmers a block of land to work on for a year before changing farmer. So the farmers, most of common man were not used to planning for a future, they had to get what they could from the present and what they had to work with in this very moment. This thinking in the meantime, many hundreds of years later still influences the fabric of today’s society — they have this ability to live in the present (e.g. a little like a more opportunistic version of Eckhart Tolle — living in the now :)), and as such they don’t invest much in the future, this in turn is reflected in them dropping the use of the verb’s future tense in their language. So language/ history/ community weave together these rich intricate threads creating the magic that is life.

Natural Dying in Laos

We get to see this as we get to know the locals, read local history, discover and dig deeper than the surface view that we are often given, which is given to all tourists passing through. It’s the most rewarding part of travelling for me; it’s like being a archaeologist however instead of uncovering rocks and trinkets, I discover magical insights that bind together the richest and most fascinating stories and living tapestries.

So back to where I was getting at, how do we met these locals, we can’t all move to another country (click here to find interesting job assignments at escape the city)– however we can spend a bit of time before we go to research what a little about the country and see what we can learn or even teach perhaps, here are some of my top #10 ways to meet and get to know locals, the culture the history:

  1. Stay somewhere unique
  2. Do a language exchange, there is always someone wanting do swap, best place I’ve found is conversationexchange.com or language exchange
  3. Volunteer, at a smaller local non-for profit. The larger ones are run by and full of foreigners, personally I like the smaller local operations, they work more with the community with little budgets and can your time and energy go much further. When in South American I used this site.
  4. Do a workshop in anything that tickles your fancy, my best experiences were learning local cooking in Thailand with an ex-monk, a natural dying and weaving course in Laos. Do try to do something run by a local organization verses a tour / travel agency.
  5. Investigate community events, programs or talks — given by local libraries or community centres.
  6. Check to see if there are any free local walking / bike tours, in some cities given by keen locales.
  7. Visit local markets and spend some time talking to the stall holders and creatives — they love a conversation and if you take the time you’ll find their full of stories, insights and tips. Often the craft is handed down through the generations and regional.
  8. Find a mutual interest and then find a shop / studio / place where you can discuss and learn more about how they do that in the country your visiting, maybe it’s gardening, cooking, woodwork, surfing, weaving, knitting, dancing etc. the list really is endless — you’ll get the best tips, ideas and insights and maybe taken to some spots and given some real local recommendations you’ll never find on the tourist map or routes.
  9. When in Rome, as the saying goes, do like a Roman. When I was in Argentina I never in all my 4 years, went to an official tango show, they are over priced and overly staged, you’ll see an equally good tango on the streets of San telmo or a late night milagro where you’ll see the very best dancers and real life scenarios, and dance with and meet the locals. Or catch up and eat dinner with locales, some sites even support this now, click here.
  10. Smile, stop — smell the roses, dare to attempt small conversations; anywhere and any time. Locales love people asking about and discussing their country — and you’ll learn as much from the gentleman on the park bench whose family has seen years of passed down history, or the lady in the bakery or at the bus stop than you will in any history book. And if anyone visits your country be sure to do same :)
Learning Thai cooking in Chiang Mai

It’s these people, their lives — their stories — their sharing — their time — that enriches our travels and adds a richness to our journey that can not be bought at any price or presented by any tour guide. It’s this and all the amazingly lovely people I’ve met along the way that has made all my journeys worth travelling.

Go forth my friends and uncover your own journeys magic…..

Resources:

www.couchsurfing.com

www.airbnb.com

www.workaway.info

www.helpx.net/

www.volunteersouthamerica.net/

www.truetravellers.org/

www.freevolunteering.net/

www.withlocals.com/

www.mealsharing.com/

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Tags: conversation exchange, journey, mealshare, met locales, travelling, volunteering, workshops


Originally published at www.anadiomene.com on April 13, 2016.

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