Vacations can be tiring. Yes, the idea of sitting in the sun comes to mind when we create our travelling plans but often when we arrive, we feel the need to ‘take in” the environment, setting us on a full and rapid paced itinerary before we return home. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of our surroundings and getting the most from our investment in ourselves, but the question is, do you want to come home with tons of pictures of places you can’t remember the name for and a few stories about the food or toilet differences? Don’t you really want to begin to experience the culture you’ve chosen? There are ways to get more out of your trip. Making it memorable means slowing down to enjoy some of the things that make each place individual: people.
Anywhere we might meander in the world has something to see, but what about experiencing the place? My most happy memories are of getting to know the waiter at a favorite restaurant (thanks again to Ketut, Thubten, and Mauro). Or, sitting down to watch the tailor making my new dress on a vintage sewing machine, sitting on a pile fabric that has become scraps for patchwork designs, in a dingy workshop in Katmandu. Or being invited to dinner by the elephant driver/caretaker because we got rained out. Sure, the picture of the Eiffel Tower is a necessity, but talking to a family about the differences in bread choices at the boulangerie can make the trip unforgettable.
Here’s some ways I slow down:
- I feel this should go without saying, but dare I say it: Learn some of the language of the place you are visiting. I recommend, at the very least: Hello (or greetings of some sort), Thank you, Please and a not so formal “How ya doin’?” (Ca va? French Che fach? Romanian)
- Don’t have a plan for each day. Give yourself a day off to walk around, sit in a cafe (not on the Internet), plant yourself in a park and stroll the main road to find a place to write postcards or journal. Talk to whoever you meet; the waiter, the shopkeeper, the mother with her child and be prepared to share yourself.
- Use your camera as a talking point. Ask others to take your picture, take pictures of locals (in some countries they love it, others they don’t- so act accordingly), or document rush hour, your favorite signage or school kids at play.
- Take a ride around the city or town without a destination and get to know the driver’s perspective of his town. Seeing a town by foot, bus or rickshaw all offer different views, just be open to stopping and checking out what you encounter en route.
- Ask about or research a local eaterie. Go there and hover all day. Eat a breakfast, lunch and dinner there. Read your book and ask questions. The staff and regulars will be curious about you too. Keep your eyes open and looking for ways to invite or welcome others to your table. Placing props on the table, like your guidebook or a map, may help.
- Have something custom made. It’s nice to bring home a souvenir but nothing’s better than for it to be one-of-a-kind. I’ve come home with hats, bags, clothes and even a table. The need to interact with the vendor or craftsperson, and that interaction, can create a connection beyond that encounter, if you’re lucky.
- Teach English. Offer a talent that costs you nothing. The need to engage with you, the foreigner, can be academic or social but it can offer you something a picture of a statue can not.
- Sit. Watch from a vantage that allows you to be a voyeur or from within the crowd. You will see how relaxing and wonderful it is to slow down and blend in.
Originally posted in www.traveltipsblogger.com