Travel is a fantastic experience, but with so much of the modern travel culture and industry being commercialised and sold to us in pre-packaged holiday bundles and obligatory social media snaps, how can we ensure that we really connect to our destinations in a deeper way?
Here are a few tips to set you on the right course.
Travel with a local
Travelling with a local is one of the best things you can do for a deeper, more authentic experience of a place. Wherever possible, you should consider taking the opportunity.
A local will know where to find the hidden gems of a place that tourist guides may miss out on. They’ll understand the language of the area and will be able to get you into places usually inaccessible to foreigners. They’ll also be able to suggest authentic experiences and cuisine, and keep you out of tourist traps!
Go where the locals go
Following on from the last point, if you want an authentic experience of a place, you should spend at least part of your trip trying to seek out and go to the places the locals frequent.
A restaurant full of people from the area is bound to be more authentic than one full of tourists. It’s not very hard to tell the difference. And a traditional music night attended by natives is often going to be truer to the pulse of the culture than one set up to entertain visitors. Immersing yourself in the local music is a great way to connect to the rhythm of a destination.
Research the history and folklore of the place beforehand
When you know the history and legends of a place, every stone in every wall will seem to take on new significance. You’ll pass buildings which you know have played a crucial role in historical events, and you’ll see rivers and bridges straight out of fables — and they’ll be larger than life for that reason.
Researching the history and legends of a place before visiting is easily one of the greatest things you can do to connect more deeply to a location. Reading a novel taking place at your destination before your trip is a great way to get you inspired. A simple book on Dubai history can bring the Dubai attractions you’ll come across all the more fascinating.
You’ll find it amazing how a city, much like any other, can take on new life once you know something more about it and are able to appreciate its nuance and unique story. Without doing a bit of history research you might walk past an ancient bridge or castle without knowing it.
Stay for longer than a few days
The well-known author Tim Ferriss makes the point in his bestselling work, “The 4-Hour Work Week”, that to truly experience a place, we have to spend some time there and immerse ourselves in the culture and daily routine of life there.
Tourists stop by a location for a few short days, see the recommended sights, have a meal or two, and leave. Travellers who want to really get under the skin of a place, however, hang around for a while. They study the language, they frequent local businesses, they may even take classes in local arts, and befriend the people they meet.
While you don’t have to spend years away from home travelling and working, it might be worth your while to invest more than a weekend exploring each destination.
What is one destination where you have connected with more deeply?