You can open up Google (aka my search engine for life), search any location in the World and find a zillion results on what to do, see and eat. Bloggers (including myself) and businesses will fill your head with the best of every city on every part of this great Earth. This is a wonderful concept, but there is also a small list of essential things that I think you should be sure to do no matter where you happen to be traveling to. So, whether you are embarking on a voyage through the mountains of Ireland or simply taking a long weekend trip to Nashville, Tennessee, here are five things you better be doing.

When I get asked what I love most about traveling I always start with culture. To me, exploring foreign cultures is both fascinating and exhilarating. Culture is made up of many things, but most importantly is it made up of people. You can research the hell out of a city, but you will never gain as much from a book or website as you will from the people who live there. The locals are a hub of knowledge on food, weather, places to see, and where your money will be best spent. So, even if it is a simple conversation with the bartender in German pub, make sure you try your best to connect with the locals. Aaron and I have done a bit of traveling and no matter where we are, we are always sure to chat it up with employees and native residents. This is always where we find the best advice on wherever it is that we are staying. Who knows — you just might make some life-long friends in the process.

Let me start by saying there is nothing wrong with going to tourist locations. I support every person that wants to ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower and lay on the infamous cliffs of Santorini. You should go see these places; they are remarkable. You should also take time to find the hidden gems inside each and every place you go to. As stated earlier, locals are great at finding you the best restaurant in the corner of town that no one knows about. You can also rent a car or bike and venture out in search of the less popular beaches around the town. See a long line at a cafe across the street from your hotel? Take a nice long walk and hunt down a less popular spot with equally amazing lattes.

I don’t care if you have zero passion to start a blog or if you are one of those weirdos who hates having photographs in their home — take pictures of everything. Unfortunately for us humans, our memories are far from perfect and there will be a time in your life that you will not be able to easily reflect on the sights that you once saw. Photographing your adventures will allow you to always revisit the memories you had in the places you have been. I also encourage you to use the photographs as a way to tell the story of your adventures. You can call your bestie and gush about the hike you took in Indonesia, but that story will never compare to showing her how beautiful those images really are. (Sorry to burst your bubble on your story-telling skills.)

When your friends and family send you off on your next trip, one (or more) of them will likely tell you not to eat from local vendors. Here’s what you do with that: Smile nicely, nod, and then forget they ever spoke to you. What is the point of trekking across thousands of miles of land & water only to find yourself at the Asian McDonald’s? Make the commitment to discover local cuisine and promise yourself that you will at least try new things. I am a picky-ass eater, but I am not going to toss my nose in the air at the opportunity to try foods that I may never see again. Eating from local vendors and restaurants can also be really affordable depending on where you are at. Are you going to get the shits and be stuck on the toilet for 3 days straight? Maybe. But, you are not the only one and the experience will be worth it.

Note: while I encourage you to try local cuisine, please be smart about it. Be sure to research the food and water systems to know if they are safe to eat & drink from.

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Please note: This post was first featured on my website, RachelInFlight.