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Living Local:

How to immerse yourself in an unfamiliar place.

By Zainab Zaman

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Every individual travels uniquely; each with their own personal quirks like buying a spoon from each new place you visit or going to the best coffee cafe in every new town. Whichever travel habit you indulge in, I implore you to add just one more for your next destination. Live like a local!

Ditch the Airbnb, chain hotel, or the all-inclusive resort and make yourself a citizen of whatever city you find yourself in. Traveling is all about experiencing new places and learning about new religions, cultures, and food. In order to maximize this experience, it's vital to understand how people live there so you can properly grasp their culture and life. Living locally will open up your eyes to so many new parts of the city or immersive events that you wouldn't have known as a tourist.

This has become a must do travel hack for me and my family. No matter where we go in any corner of the world, we spend at least one day like a local. This has been ingrained in me by my mother. Whenever we traveled, she had a fascination with going to the grocery store in that city. I used to think it was silly, a waste of our precious vacation time, but now it's one of the first things I do in a new place. As a kid I didn't want to waste my relaxing beach time by venturing out to a small grocery store in St Martin and my mom would take us all and we could pick out one thing we wanted from the foreign store (my brother and I usually opted for a brightly colored candy in a different language).

It was fascinating to see the different types of food and brands and languages that are in that grocery store and how it compared to back home. This is what I learned that I loved living local when I travel.

Another way that I like to live locally is by meeting new people in that city. There is no better person to tell you where to grab dinner or what museums to look at and somebody who lives there. On public transport, or in a small restaurant, strike up a conversation with whoever’s around and ask questions about their life.

Sometimes they’ll tell you about where they grew up or their favorite places to watch a movie in town.

Sometimes you’ll get really lucky and they invite you to go to their favorite place for dinner if I hadn’t lived locally and talked to a random group of girls in Geneva and I would’ve never discovered this small fondue place that had the best cheese I’ve ever tasted.

If you don’t live local, you miss out on so many experiences that can transform your travel destination. Not only does living local, open your eyes and the opportunity, it also saves you a lot of money. Traveling is expensive, but sticking to tourist destinations is even more expensive. You can save money by getting souvenirs from a local market rather than a souvenir stand and the trinket is likely to be more unique and memorable.

By supporting smaller local businesses, you’re investing into that community and helping that town grow its tourism and economy. It's a nice way to give back to the place you're vacationing in.

So next time you go anywhere, whether it’s a new state, a relaxing beach, town, or a bustling city you should spend at least one day going to the supermarket, or into a residential part of the city to really understand that new place and live locally!


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