Being a typical tourist when traveling can be entertaining. You see impressive places, participate in fun activities, and cross things off your must-see list. But to me, it’s not the best way to travel if you want something more meaningful out of the experience. As a tourist, you’re only scratching on the surface of the location you’re at, and usually miss a lot of hidden gems.
In my view, traveling is the most fun when you live like a local and get to experience what the places are really like. The culture, the people, the inside information that tourists usually don’t get to take part of. It makes the travel experience so much richer.
So how do you come to a new place and start living like a local?
Embrace the culture. See what the locals are doing, where they’re going and how they’re acting. When I moved to the Gold Coast, it was easy to catch a glimpse of the typical beach lifestyle. The active life, filled with surfing, skating, and beach activities, is what it’s all about here. Since I moved here, I’ve started living a more active life and tried getting a more laid-back approach to life. So far so good – I live right by the beach, do a lot of sports, and feel more relaxed than ever before.
Different places teach you different things. Living on the Gold Coast teaches me not to stress out about stuff and just chill. It teaches me how I can incorporate an active lifestyle to my everyday life. With an open mind and a bit of curiosity, it’s really simple (and fun!) to learn from other cultures, wherever in the world you choose to go. Every culture has interesting things to offer – just pick and choose!
Interact with locals – it’s a lot easier than you might think! I’ve received a huge amount of great advice by doing this. I’ve heard about the locals’ favourite places and their top things to do. Thanks to this, I usually end up going to non-touristy places and doing non-touristy things, which is valuable if you want to see the “real deal”.
A great way to meet locals is to join different clubs or groups. It might sound a bit too much if you’re just traveling but it usually doesn’t need that much commitment. For me, I’ve always met locals by joining sports teams and similar. At the Gold Coast, I’ve met a lot of people by joining a beach volleyball group. We play competitive games several times a week and it’s been both rewarding on a social level, and most of all, heaps of fun!
If joining some kind of group isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Interacting with locals can be as simple as just starting to randomly talk to someone. Easy, right? People are usually happy to talk to you and give you advice on the best places to go and things to do. If it feels embarrassing, just keep in mind that you’ll probably never see the person again. There’s nothing to lose!
Do the things you really want and not just what seems cool. As a tourist, there are often a lot of “must do’s” planned in. Sure, it’ll make your Instagram look really cool and people will probably be jealous, but isn’t it more fun to simply do what you actually want? It takes a lot of pressure off the traveling and makes you enjoy it way more. Don’t rush to see as much as you possibly can, it will only feel stressful and make the experience less meaningful. Just try to chill – like the locals do.
Most of my best travel memories this far haven’t been all the amazing scenery, extravagant trips, or other tourist things. It’s rather been the everyday life I’ve experienced and shared with friends. Even though I’ve done amazing stuff recently, like diving in the Great Barrier Reef and going skydiving, those days haven’t been the best ones (even though they’ve been absolutely amazing). My best days this far have mostly been quite simple, but still perfect in a way. It can be as simple as spending an evening at the beach surrounded by cool people while sharing your experiences. However, I’m definitely not discouraging anyone from doing the “cool stuff” – they’re usually incredible. Just remember that happiness isn’t always found in the extravagant activities but sometimes in the simpler things. In my experience, it’s often more about the people you’re with and the mindset you have than what you’re actually doing.
If you’re staying for a bit longer – consider getting an apartment and a job. This helps a lot when you want to live like a local. It gives you a taste of what life at your destination is like and gives you the opportunity to meet lots of people. Making the change from living in hotels and hostels into an apartment was a great step for me to feel less like a tourist. It also makes your experience feel more like you’re living an everyday life – just a way cooler one. Here in Australia, there are heaps of people looking for house/roommates so there’s usually not a problem finding somewhere to live. Also, living in an apartment is often even cheaper than living in hostels! Getting a job doesn’t have to be very hard either. It obviously depends on the person and location, but it’s usually not too hard if you’re persistent.
Most important of all – get out of your comfort zone! There’s a reason why the expression is so widely used. Doing things that feel scary and uncomfortable is actually pretty great and really makes you grow. It’s also a great way to get out of the safe-playing typical tourist trap. Sometimes, it’s as easy as just saying ‘yes’ to things without over-thinking it. Opportunities and adventures awaits around every corner.
In short – observe and explore. You’ll learn a lot, meet amazing people and create memories for life. So get out of the tourist mindset and go explore the real world!