Travelling like a local is a bit of thing at the moment. I’ve in fact, without putting it into those exact words, been dipping my toe in it already, of late. Over our last few holidays, home-stay accommodation and Airbnb (staying in people’s spare rooms) have become a bit of a feature.
It started as a budget thing, but the extra insight we gained has really sold us on the idea. In Cuba last April, I felt more under the skin of any place I’ve ever been. I speak some Spanish and we stayed exclusively with Cuban families in the Casa Particular home-stay system there. We came home feeling like we’d been immersed in Cuba, rather than just on holiday there.
In Australia, we’ll mainly be staying in Sydney with my ‘little’ (6ft something, 30-something) brother and his lovely girlfriend. That’s a good step on the way to travelling like a local, but where’s the challenge? To really get under Sydney’s skin, I need a plan. I need to meet people.
I’ve been hunting around the t’interweb, hoping for a neat little list of ways to travel like a local. There’s a few lists, with a few good suggestions. None stood alone as the perfect list, so I’m making my own. To kick off with, I thought about the everyday ways I interact with other Bathonians, how I discover new places to try, what I do with my time here…
- Don’t just eat out, go grocery shopping; chat to market traders, other customers, shop owners
- Don’t just sit at tables, Sit at the bar; chat to the staff
- Don’t just check the guidebook; Ask the locals where they go to drink/eat etc
Of course, here in Bath I have friends and salsa and other clubs and the like to keep me busy. So if I lived in Sydney, I’d do the same, right? So, I’m adding:
- Find a salsa night; go dance with the Aussies!
- Do an exercise class or two (yoga by the sea? Yes please)
- Use Meet-up, Groupon etc to find activities and events to get stuck into
- Get networking, find people to meet up with.
I have another trick up my sleeve, too. Although we’re staying with family, hubby and I be wandering off on our own for a few days in the Blue Mountains. For this, we’ll need accommodation, and herein lies an opportunity to enter unchartered territory. Couchsurfing.
Yes, yes, I’m well aware that adventurous/skint people have been doing this for yonks, but we’ve only just embraced the airbnb thing. For us, this is brand new and just a little scary. I’ve found a guy in the Blue Mountains that I really want to stay with, though. Not only is he salsa dancer (and some would argue that’s enough), but he takes his guests on night bush-walks, feeds them great food and plies them with wine. I can’t see a downside, here. He’s getting great reviews from other couchsurfers. Sounds like a top bloke. I’m crossing all available limbs and digits for him being able to host us.
So that’s how we’re going to travel Sydney (and surrounds) like locals later this month. Have I missed anything important? Has anybody else done this and have some pearls of travel-local wisdom to share?
In the meantime, I have the other half of April’s challenge to meet; living like a tourist in my own city of Bath. Bring on the ‘museum leg’ (you know, that ache. Specific to galleries and museums).