By Cara Rae Jacobs
Okay, let me first preface this by saying that sometimes I LOVE playing the part of the tourist! I think it can be great to unabashedly revel in picture taking, asking people around you questions, blocking sidewalks while figuring out plans with whomever you’re with and getting sneers from foreigners because you either can’t speak or completely butcher their language. However, most of the time, I prefer to fly a little more under the radar. So here are some tips, whether you’re vacationing stateside or abroad.
1. Dress like the locals.
First and foremost this means wearing nothing on your feet that could qualify as walking shoes. Comfortable shoes are good, going as far as tennis shoes, not so good. This means that if you’re in San Francisco, wear some layers so you don’t get caught freezing your bum off in the morning or suffering from heat stroke in the afternoon. If you’re in Florence, throw on a scarf. In Paris? Minimalism and classic attire are your friends.
2. Take it easy on the picture taking.
I know, this is a hard one. You shouldn’t forgo taking what would be a great picture just so you don’t get looks from the locals around you. But at least leave the camera strap and bag at the hotel and use your iPhone. And it’s one thing to take a picture of you and your friends or family in front of a monument or enjoying a wonderful meal together, but with the end of film we’ve become spoiled with the amount of pictures we can take on our digital devices. You don’t need 20 pictures of your view on the beach, or 15 of the offerings at the local bakery. Focus on taking great pictures of the memorable things, and enjoying the moment, rather than snapping pictures of every single thing that would look great on your Instagram account.
3. Try to find some things to do and see that aren’t touristy.
Instead of going to the most famous restaurant, or the place that has the highest rating on Yelp, ask someone that lives there where their favorite place to go is and chances are you’ll end up having a much better, and often less expensive, experience. Instead of hitting up all the designer stores down the Champs Élysees, try a lesser-known boutique. Instead of a bread-bowl at the pier try a food truck downtown.
4. Put the map away.
This one is actually pretty easy if you have a smart phone available. If not, try to memorize the route you need to take before leaving, or another nifty trick is folding up the map as small as you can (about the size of your palm) while still seeing where you need to go. This goes for subway stations too. Nothing is as big of a giveaway as a person who has no clue as to how the train works. Get a map beforehand and figure out which stops you need to get off at before you leave the hotel.
5. Be aware of the volume of your voice and how you may be impacting the experience of people around you.
Unfortunately, especially when abroad, American tourists are notorious for being obnoxious. So just try to have a good time without being loud or oblivious to the people around you. This means standing on the right side of the escalator, not complaining to wait staff or loudly criticizing the local culture when you’re in earshot of other people.
These tips, paired with some common sense and a taste for adventure, should have you well on your way to blending in and getting a local’s perspective during your next trip.
About Cara Rae
Cara Rae is a twenty-four year old wife, living with her husband and her cat in a 5th wheel somewhere in the middle of Oklahoma. When she’s not traveling around the country, she finds her home in northern California. She spends most days sewing, practicing yoga, baking and compulsively adding things to online shopping carts. Most of her evenings are spent playing pinochle with her husband or reading a book with a glass of wine by her side. She adores traveling, Harry Potter, any book by N.T. Wright, and eating lots of ice cream.
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