When I look back at all the countries, cities, and towns I’ve visited, the places that left the biggest impression were the ones where I managed to conjure up a local experience. Although this is something many of us strive for, it can be difficult to obtain. One of the biggest barriers for cultural immersion while travelling, is time. Here are some tips to help you soak up the culture in a relatively short period of time.
Getting the most from your experience abroad doesn’t always come easy. I find that preparing myself ahead of time is a big help. Learn the common phrases, hobbies, and pastimes of your destination. This also helps you make sure you’ve appropriately matched your destination to your reasons for travelling.
You’ll find that there are many opportunities for a live-in experience with a local family. The homestay experience is an unmatched method of immersing yourself in local culture.
During a one or two week vacation, you can wear yourself out trying to see everything. The more you see in a short period of time, the thinner your experience is going to be. Have a list of must sees, preferred sees, and remember to leave room for the unexpected. Flexibility will allow you to get the most out of your journey.
Although guidebooks are great for recommendations, nothing compares to the recommendation of a local. Try asking them what they do with their friends, and not what you should do while you’re in town.
In order to eat with the locals, you need to eat like the locals. Prepare yourself to try foods you’ve never heard of or think you don’t like. Go to local markets and window shop for the right restaurant. Get off the beaten track to find places the typical tourist wouldn’t stumble upon.
Lack of proper rest, diet, and exercise aggravate culture shock stress symptoms. By establishing a daily exercise schedule, you can ensure your social-self is in top form. Try joining in on an unfamiliar activity or sport.
You don’t need to disguise yourself as a local to find “the local experience.” As long as you’re respectful and outgoing, your presence will be kindly received…most of the time.
Don’t fain from the masses – JOIN THEM! The metro system is a great place to be amongst hometowners and cover a lot of ground at the same time.
Even if you’ve never spoken the language before, make an effort. It’s amazing how willing people are to help you through a broken conversation. It brings people together.
About the Author
BikeHike adventures is a global adventure travel company that offers guided tours to over 30 destinations worldwide. BikeHike caters to outdoor enthusiasts with a passion to go a little deeper during their travels. Highly experienced and personable adventure guides facilitate the wonder and pride of exploration. Both big and small groups are accommodated with varying degrees of difficulty. Operating for over 18 years, BikeHike’s customized adventures have found their way into the lives of many reoccurring customers. If exploration is your lifestyle, BikeHike Adventures is your mentor! Follow them on Twitter @bikehiketravel
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