A traveler moves away from being a common tourist to one who actually is an actively taking part in daily life of a foreign land. Many people go on trips that just end up being type where you roam around like sheep and view the sites as if in a zoo peering though the plexiglass. This experience is satisfying to many but there is so much more to experience then just being on the sidelines. Make the most out of the trip and see more. Start with mastering the basics: Eat, Sleep and Meet.
Start with the basics: food
These are the two basic things a person needs to seek out in a day. Nothing is more stressful than trying to find a place to satisfy your hunger in a domestic or international unfamiliar territory. There are many who give up too easily will and find themselves buying a value meal McDonald’s. Why not. The overall quality is consistent, the menu selections doesn’t change from country to country, it’s cheap and most the food not local but imported frozen. It’s good if you are in a small town on the Danube and all they serve is locally caught fish, but really McDonald’s? At least try because you may come across a gem that serves a great meal.
Before you give up in venturing into the unknown local culinary scene, take a minute and ask the person checking you in if there are some places to eat near by where you can try some local food. They usually will have a list of places to recommend. If they end up being not so good, then it’s time to settle for the familiar, but if they are outstanding then you will be rewarded with a great meal, a unique experience and a great travel story.
There are so many places available online and even in the old-fashioned hard copy book form that can put you in contact with accommodation that is not your garden variety business or name brand hotel. Most destinations have beds for rent range from space someone’s couch (couchsurfer.com) to staying in a fancy 5-star hotel. If you are lucky, there are many options to choose from. If not, the decision is easy since it may be a one trick pony town. When there are many choices then try to stay somewhere with some character like a small hotel located in a residential neighborhood but not too far from local sites.
Get out of the comfort zone and be adventurous.
It is possible and a bit risky to find your accommodation when you get into town. It’s ok to take some of the adventure out and put a good list together along with contact information before arrival. Try to find at least three in the same general area so you don’t have haul your pack too far. Also take advantage of technology and visit a booking site. It will make you feel a little less anxious knowing that your list of options have space available. If the hotels in the area all seem to be booking up and there aren’t many choices it may be a good idea to be safe and pre-book. Save the adventure for the next town.
Not booking a room until getting into town or a few days before can help in getting a better deal on the room. Prepare to bargain. Free wi-fi, breakfast or transport and/or room rate discounts are all up for negotiation. Can’t hurt to try. It’s pretty much the more risk a traveler is willing to take the less money a traveler will have to pay out on accommodation. A savvy traveler can use this as an opportunity to practices some bargaining skills. Be bold and ask for a more but don’t get too greedy since you do need a room and don’t want to piss people off since you probably are going to be their guest for a few nights.
Finding accommodation as you go does involve some pre-trip planning but can ultimately save you some money and offers chance to meet local residents since most are places run by families, a group of friends or people who own and run the place themselves.
Learn some of the local dialect
No one expects a new person to an area to be fluent with the local language and dialect but knowing a few words and phrases is a good start and the effort means a lot even if it’s just please and thank you. Don’t worry and just do your best. Ultimately, try not to tear the language too much apart. The grammar and accent are things that someone needs to study over a large amount of time. Do your best to listen and ask native speakers how to say things once you have built some sort of rapport with them. It is a great way to begin to learn, broaden your experience and make good use of that expensive and weighty language guide.
Try a hostel
The term hostel when it comes to a place to rest for a night makes some think of those dirty hole in the walls where rooms are full of adolescents up until all hours, then sleeping 10 or more to a room in bunk beds and whose main goal is to be piss drunk the entire journey. This is true but not all hostels were created equal. They vary from country to country and region to region. With development of the travel guide and online booking agencies the hostel as branched out in form and features. More of them now represent what used to be only known as B&B’s, Guesthouses, Homestays and budget hotels.
The one common theme that most around the world have are a common areas where travelers hang out to relax and hopefully meet other travelers. They also offer the comforts of a private room and bath at a higher price. The price is usually equal to what a regular hotel will offer in the area. The plus is that you can usually get perks like free wi-fi, breakfast, beverages and local first hand knowledge of what the area offers from the proprietors and/or guests.
These are just a few things that a traveler can try to carry out when the are a visitor to a foreign land. Try to go off the well-worn tourist path of the area and get an experience that only belongs to you. The best part of traveling is that it’s a constant learning experience. The first step is to figure out the basics or the things that ever society has in common which is how we go about eating, sleeping and how we communicate. Take it from there and run with it.