As Henry Miller wrote: “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Indeed, amazing cultural insights can be found almost anywhere; hence, there’s no end to the adventure if we seek our these experiences with our eyes—and our hearts—open. We believe that how you decide to travel is more important than where you decide to travel. That is, simply seeing the sights is no longer enough—which is why we’re drawn to the travel blogosphere. The blogs to which we subscribe share a common thread—they seek a style of travel that strays from those beaten paths, digs deeper, and strives to understand how locals live, work and play. Check out five simple suggestions that we’ve collected from our favourite bloggers that we feel will enhance your round-the-world journey—providing it with greater depth. This might include eating at a restaurant favoured by local residents instead of tourists, participating in a sport or visiting sites not found in most guidebooks. Sure—those in the industry might call it “experiential travel”. But it’s what independent travellers have been doing for years—living experiences instead of looking at them.
Check out a sporting event
“Sports are not just competitive events between teams or individuals in their quest to win titles, trophies, and championships” writes Jeremy Branham of Budget Travel Adventures. “They have a way of connecting with people and culture beyond tourist attractions and museums. If the history of a city broadens the mind then sports is the soul and heart of its people.”
He continues: “A museum can teach you what people have learned and how a place evolved—art, war, politics, and education. Sports allows you to experience who people are—raw, spontaneous emotion and passion passed down through generations through relationships, shared moments and culture”. For more check out his post entitled “5 ways sports and travel unite passion and culture around the world” on his blog here.
Get a haircut
“Make the mundane memorable” writes Adam from Travels with Adam. He continues: “I think this may be one of my more favorite pastimes—getting a haircut while travelling. It’s such a regular occurrence and is bound to happen while you’re abroad for any extended amount of time. Unless you’re a dirty hippie. Not only does it involve finding a place to get a haircut, but you’re almost guaranteed a local experience. I mean, how many other travellers are getting a haircut?” Adam concludes: “That’s what makes long-term travel so wacky—and so fun! Doing things just like you normally would, but in a totally different way”. Check out Adam’s post — and his excellent blog here.
Keep a blog—or don’t
Two very interesting perspectives on this one. Whereas Mariellen Ward of Breathedreamgo advocates keeping a blog, Rolf Potts of Vagablogging recommends against it. “Blogging while you travel can enrich your journey in more ways than one,” writes Mariellen Ward of breathedreamgo. “It helps keep your friends and family back home informed, creates a permanent record of your trip and gives you the opportunity to take time to reflect on your experiences.”
On the other hand, Rolf Potts of Vagablogging sees it differently: “One dilemma many travellers face is reconciling the personal and public sides of a journey… the effect travel has on us is sometimes far too profound to reveal to the world, and our metamorphoses needn’t always be broadcast so strangers can post inanities about their validity or lack thereof. We leave out saucy escapades, not to mention precious impromptu travel snippets. Because of this, it’s the rare blog entry that can match the honesty and authenticity of a handwritten journal. 10 years from now, which will you want to remember, the true story or the watered-down one you fed the public? Check our the rest of his article on World Hum here. You’d also do well to check out Mariellen’s top tips for getting started as a travel blogger.
Haggle in a market
Haggling is something you have to be in the mood for. Patience and a sense of humor are essential—or you won’t enjoy the experience. And if you aren’t careful, you may find yourself struggling back to your hotel under the weight of your purchases and with no money to finance the rest of your round-the-world trip. Haggling and shopping will provide you with a chance to practice your language skills, meet some locals and have a little fun—all at the same time.
Sarah Schlichter at Independent Traveler writes: “Some travellers get to know a place through its museums and monuments, others through its scenic landscapes or traditional cuisine. But for globetrotters who love to shop, there’s no truer way to experience a place than by haggling with merchants in a bazaar, browsing the handcrafted wares of local artisans or sampling designer duds at the poshest boutique in town.” Check our her article: “Shopping Abroad: A Traveler’s Guide” here.
Check out the street meat
“As travellers we want to experience all that we can from a country. ” writes Ayngelina from Bacon is Magic (guest posting on Caz and Craig’s Y Travel). “When you ask people how their impression of a place one of the first things they will talk about is the food. And the foundation of any strong culinary heritage is street food.”
She continues: “I have had some amazing meals in my life but the most memorable food experiences have been from street vendors: crickets in Mexico, bun cha in Vietnam, ceviche in Peru. In fact, the first memory of a country tends to be something delicious I ate there.” Check out her piece “The Real Reason You Should Eat Street Food” here.
Just as we were about to publish this post, a piece from Joel Carillet popped up on our Google Reader in which he discusses experience vs participation. Carillet’s position is worth considering—and certainly has a bearing on this post—and to a greater degree, on how we approach travel and what we emphasize in it. He writes:
It is the men, women, and children in the places we visit, not inanimate things, that allow us to relate to (and not just experience) the world. I don’t at all want to knock experience — I love it! — but it’s important to be aware that traveling in the name of “having experiences” isn’t the same as traveling to participate in the world. The one is rather self-referential; the other is more interested in being a part of a community, even if only in a very modest way.
Do you have any recommendations for experiences that connect you with the essence of a place and its people—and should be included here? Let us know in the comment stream below.