To truly understand a place, you must experience in through the eyes of those who live there. We wholeheartedly believe that. Connecting with locals while traveling allows us to gain a deeper knowledge of a place. But with the busy itineraries that come with travel, how can a girl find the opportunities to ask locals questions and form friendships? We’ve come up with a list of five simple tips for connecting with locals while traveling.
Find Your “Spot”
If you’re staying in one city for a few days, find a local haunt and make it yours. Repeat your daily visit and see how friendships blossom! The first step to connecting with locals while traveling is repetition. So often we’re here one day and gone the next, leaving us without the ability to truly meet others. So, if you do have the luxury of staying for even two days in one place, find a great cafe near your hotel to stop in every morning! Introduce yourself to your hostess or even start up a casual chat with a couple near you. Better yet, if there are other familiar faces in your “spot,” start up a friendly conversation about how great it is. Finding your “spot” and repeating daily is a great way to ground yourself, but also opens the door to connecting with locals.
Volunteering is a great way to form relationships with locals while also making an impact. Finding ethical organizations who work with locals leads to fostering meaningful relationships with locations and their people.
Meet Ups & Cultural Events
Researching meet ups and other ongoing cultural events is a hub for travelers to get to know locals. From festivals, museums and community events, to greeter programs where locals volunteer to guide travelers around cities, to official meet ups… do your due-diligence and look into what’s going on!
Museums and art galleries are a great place to start up conversation with locals perusing art, who might know a thing or two about the featured paintings and other works. Going to a popular park to have lunch is a great neutral area to meet other locals who are looking to hang out during good weather days. Also, don’t forget to look on community websites to see other under-the-radar events going on around the area!
Reconsider Your Lodging
Although the ease of booking a hotel cannot be overlooked, it’s important to reconsider your lodging options if your prerogative is connecting with locals while traveling.
Booking with Airbnb, especially a private room in a local’s home, is a great option to meet locals. Being a guest in their home is a great way to spark conversations about their culture, their favorite spots for a bite and ongoing community events. Not to mention, it’s an easy way to form a friendship. Don’t be shy, ask your host and their family out to dinner or drinks one night! Other great options for local lodging include Homestays, B&B’s run by families and Couchsurfing.
Another great option is to house-sit! The person’s home you are sitting for will likely have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the area and can even introduce you to their close friends and neighbors. Even if these people just start as emergency contacts, it’s a great way to introduce yourself and connect with locals while exploring a new location.
Connect Over Food
Music is said to be a universal language. But, we would also barter another option… FOOD. It’s true, everyone loves food! And it’s a great neutral zone to form relationships with locals over.
Go to markets, local restaurants run by families, ask questions and see where your conversation goes. Be curious! Ask about their family recipes. Ask for a lesson in making pasta (or whatever local delicacy you become obsessed with).
Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, dine with locals! Meet someone great at a festival? Ask for them where their favorite restaurant is and then ask for them to meet up with you for a later lunch. Everyone needs to eat, so why not do it together?
Trust me when I say, when it comes to a middle ground to form a connection over… food is always the answer!
Connecting with locals while traveling isn’t as difficult as you might think. It requires a little research, an open mind and, most importantly, some confidence!
What have been your best memories you’ve made with locals while traveling?