Over the years, I have had the opportunity to
watch other travelers as they interacted with
locals and responded to their new environment.
I have witnessed some wonderful encounters but
I have also had the unfortunate chance to see
some horrific examples of "ugly Americanism".
Travel is a unique experience in that it is a
two way street. The tourist is obviously there
to take in and receive all that the foreign land
and its people have to offer. While seeing sites
and discovering far away places is exciting, it
is only the first part of the journey. What so
many do not understand, and therefore completely
miss out on, is the gift of reciprocation. Most
travelers are there to receive, worried mostly
about what they are "getting" out of
the trip. I say that true traveling begins when
the visitors find themselves concerned about what
they have brought into each interaction. When
they begin to wonder what else they can give to
each situation. As traveling shifts from a one-way
express lane to a two lane gravel road, opportunities
begin to appear that would have otherwise been
missed in a cloud of self-absorption. The traveler
becomes less of a strange and forgettable tourist
and more of a temporary resident. I call this
Living Locally is actually quite easy and very
addictive. Before long you will find yourself
shaking your head in dismay at other tourists,
wondering why they have not learned to blend in
and become a part of their surroundings like you
The Steps are
Simple and Straight Forward:
1. Put yourself in their shoes.
When you begin to try and trade places with the
locals, you see things in a new light.
2. Make the first attempt
I do not speak any other languages fluently,
but I learn to say a few simple and polite phrases
in the language of any country I visit. Always
ask the person if they speak English-in their
language. Nothing screams "I don't care about
you" like a tourist rattling on in English
on the assumption that the listener understands.
While most foreigners do have at least some understanding
of English, everyone appreciates even a simple
effort on your part. You will also find that people
are more likely to go out of their way to help
if you have tried to communicate on their terms
3. Try to blend in.
Watch the locals...and copy them. Sometimes I
feel like a private investigator, as I try to
figure out where they hang out, where and what
they eat or why they do what they do. Forget trying
to explain "double tall non-fat sugar free
vanilla latte" and belly up to the bar for
whatever they are having.
4. Forget what you've known
to be true and keep an open mind.
It's a big world out there, and nobody does it
exactly like we do. You never know, you might
actually discover something you like better.
5. Relax and enjoy.
Because of good preparation and smart traveling
choices, you will have created time to experience
encounters that you have been dreaming of.
Travel, like life, is full of ups and
The trick is to be prepared for the worst
while enjoying whatever is thrown your
Traveling is fun, but Living Locally is