“Be a traveler, not a tourist.” It’s an overused quote in the travel world, but one that we wholeheartedly abide by. A constant theme here at Dame Traveler is the important lessons and empowerment travel can bring to those that experience it. Every trip, every adventure has limitless lessons to take in. Choosing to dive in and deepen your travel experiences is a decision adventurers will never regret. Here are some of our tried and true ways to intensify your explorations.
Invest Your Time In Conversation
It can be a bit intimidating, but extending ourselves to conversing with the people we encounter in our travel experiences is the only way to really make a connection. So say “hello” to the person at the cafe next to you. Ask the owner of a shop if they’re from the area, or the story of their business. If you’re staying in an AirBnb, ask your host for their recommendations or if you can buy them a drink. Taking the small steps toward communication (even if the conversation is stunted by language barriers) elevates your travel experience ten fold. Be a student of this world. Ask questions. Adopt a mindset of true curiosity. Take the time to listen. You might not make a BFF through each conversation, but even the briefest encounters will teach you something.
Go local in all shapes and forms. Avoid restaurants that tout “tourist favorite” in its descriptions and choose a more authentic one instead. Go where the locals go. Eat where the locals eat. Live how the locals eat. You’ll deepen your understanding of the place, and you’ll have the unique opportunity to connect with the people who call your destination home.
Your biggest power as a traveler is where you spend your time and your money. If you’re spending your hours enjoying the environment of a family owned boutique, book store, or cafe, buy yourself a little souvenir to remember it by. That little token of joy you’ll bring home will feel special and will support the well-being of the local economy.
Spend A Few Days “Off The Beaten Path”
If you have the time in your itinerary, take a day or two away from the larger cities. Drive into the countryside or take the train to a more remote village. The act of getting off of the well beaten path will deepen your understanding of where you are. Not all life is city life. Not all locals look or dress like what you’ve seen in the metropolis you’ve flown into. What do the people’s lives look like outside of what your guidebooks have told you? There’s only one way of knowing, and it’s to get out there and find out for yourself.
You don’t necessarily have to experience your whole trip truly unplugged (although, here are some ideas if that sounds like heaven to you). But, instead of being careless with your devices – be mindful of how much of your time is in front of a screen. Be present. Choose to experience your destination with open eyes. Notice the little details that are romantic and go unnoticed. Write them down in a journal. Keep a diary of your daily excursions. Collect moments. Find balance in documenting and being aware and present.
Go With No Plan
Get wonderfully lost in the charming neighborhoods of your destination. Not every minute of your trip should be timed and planned. (If you’re a super planner, just dedicate a whole morning or afternoon to “wandering time.”) It’s during this unstructured time that we learn the most about ourselves and the place we wander through.
No matter what you do during your travels – taking the effort and initiative to deepen your travel experiences will elevate your entire trip. You’ll be shown more and you’ll leave with more gratitude and understanding. What do you do to get more out of your travels?