The quest for meaningful or “authentic” travel experiences is a popular topic of conversation, and it’s an important question — travel is something that leads not only to the fun but to broadening and foundational experiences. You won’t be guaranteed to experiencing the full richness of a foreign country by merely landing in it.
Here are a few things you can do to enjoy a deeper travel experience.
Live and Work Where You Travel
There’s a big difference between parachuting into a foreign country and living there. The latter gives you enough time to absorb some of the local customs, to meet real people, and to experience the daily routine the same way people who live there do.
Teaching English is a popular way to work abroad because native English speakers are fortunate enough to have a skill that is very in demand around the world. It’s an enjoyable experience that educates people in a language that opens them up to a wider job market.
If you’re wondering whether this is for you, you can learn more from Travel and Teach Recruiting to see the ways companies train you for teaching and make it easy for you to transition to a new place while getting adjusted.
Moving to a very different country can feel like a big leap, but it’s an extremely fulfilling thing to do. Having a company dedicated to making this change as smooth as possible is an important form of support you’ll be grateful for.
Go off the Beaten Path
If you’re traveling in a city that has a very famous landmark, it’s perfectly OK to check it out. It’s hard to imagine going to Rome without visiting the Coliseum! But cities that attract major tourism also spawn a secondary economy designed to take advantage of naive visitors.
Sometimes “tourist trap” hotels, restaurants and other services offer decent value, but it’s more likely that they charge extra knowing that tourists don’t know what the going local rate really is.
There are several signs that you are in a tourist trap. Is the restaurant close in proximity to a major tourist site? Are the menus written in English and a local language? Does the signage announce too loudly that you’re getting “authentic” food that represents that locale? Do the patrons appear to be tourists or locals?
If the answer to these questions is “yes,” these are discouraging signs! To get an inside edge on finding local food, you can simply ask people who live there where they eat. Many travel blogs and books are filled with tips and recommendations: they may be good, but local residents always have valuable inputs you can count on.
Sometimes the urge to only consume “local” things and avoid tourist traps becomes a source of pressure — the point is not to spend 0% of your time doing touristy things, it’s to make sure you connect with something deeper at some point while you’re there. Besides, visitors have been flocking to certain regions for centuries: the tourist’s traps themselves have become part of the local fabric!
If you want to get a feel for how people in a foreign culture really live, try getting a job there so you can spend time living among the people, and steeping in their culture. Soon, tourists will be asking you where to eat and what to do.