This post originally appeared on Rustic Pathways.
If you check out #traveldeeper on Instagram, you’ll find a slew of beautiful, vibrant travel photos. But what does it mean to “travel deep”? What’s the difference between capturing a well “liked” photo and having an authentic, culturally immersive experience?
We can tell you it has nothing to do with the filter you choose. Actually, it takes stepping away from your camera, turning off your phone, and closing your guidebook. It’s not easy to have a “local” travel experience. You have to let go of your ego, not care what your adventure looks like on social media, and commit to talking to strangers. However, if you do commit, you are guaranteed to walk away with memories that will last much longer than a Snapchat story.
Here are 5 steps to traveling deeper:
Ditch the Guidebook
There are thousands of informative books, websites, and blogs to research before traveling. They certainly help you find delicious, top-rated restaurants and maybe some hidden gems. But the best way to find a truly local spot? Ask. Pop into a cafe and chat with the barista or person next to you about nearby sightseeing. Ask the taxi driver about his favorite lunch spot. If language is a barrier, take a chance by following (casually, not creepily) a few locals into the market around the corner.
Repeat after me: It’s ok to not have a plan. I don’t need an itinerary.
It’s ok to not have a plan. I don’t need an itinerary.
I promise, it will be much better than “Day 4” was ever going to be.
Learn the Language
Learning any part of the local language is incredibly helpful. Even if you only know a few key phrases like, “how much does this cost?” or “where is the bathroom?” you will be much better off. Locals will appreciate your attempt and you might be surprised at how much you pick up!Duolingo is great for learning the basics, and it’s fun! Also, once you arrive, look out for language exchanges. They’re a nice way to meet a local, practice the language, and receive some great recommendations for your stay.
Yes, it sounds scary, but you’ll probably end up lost whether you meant to be or not. Take a walk, choose a direction, and wander off the main street. Of course, research safety beforehand and don’t go anywhere you feel uncomfortable, but if you make a couple rights instead of a left, that’s ok. Right around the corner you could find a tea shop with a friendly owner,the best fish market in town, or a sparkling temple you didn’t know about.
In many countries, clothing is more conservative than in the United States. Oftentimes shorts and tank tops will not do. Remember, as a guest, it is important to show you respect the culture, so research beforehand what is appropriate. Pack light and save room to pick up local clothing. Buying in-country from small businesses not only supports the local economy, but it also helps you fit in and engage in the culture respectfully.
Listen & Observe
You’re traveling to learn about another culture and a different way of life. In order to truly learn, you have to listen and observe. If you’re sitting at a restaurant or in a public place, pull out a book and people watch for a couple of hours. Watch how people communicate and interact with one another. If you notice people introducing themselves with a kiss on the cheek instead of a handshake, you can use the same method when you meet new people.
Traveling deeper is both a strategy and a state of “letting go”. Set intentions and learning goals, but leave space for unexpected adventures. Even if everything goes wrong, embrace the struggles you encounter and take it as a lesson. Enjoy a walk through a hidden neighborhood instead of taking selfies in front of an important-looking statue. It’s the people you meet and off-the-itinerary sights that you will remember in the end.
How do you travel deeper? Share with us on Instagram with #liverustic on @therustictraveler!
This post was written by Katie Doherty, and was generously contributed by, and originally published at, Rustic Pathways