Throw your guidebook in the bin and put away that camera – it’s time to start being more than just another tourist!
A camera-clicking, guidebook toting, brash, rude tourist… no one wants to end up like that, right? So, if you want to really experience another culture and get the most from your travels, it’s time to be more than a tourist. Here’s how:
1. Get a job
The best way to really experience another country and move from strange short-term visitor to long-term resident is to get a job abroad. In a few short months, you’ll go from outsider to the person who knows all the coolest spots in town and (almost) never gets ripped off at the market.
While getting a job abroad might sound daunting, it’s actually pretty simple. Due to the worldwide demand for certified TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) teachers, any fluent English speaker can get a TEFL certificate and start teaching overseas. Want to find out how? Download a free copy of TEFL Uncovered: How to Teach Your Way Abroad with TEFL to get the lowdown.
2. Chuck your guidebook in the bin
If you’re after a quick laugh, go down to your local bookstore and read the guidebook entry for your hometown. Hilarious isn’t it? You’d never in a million years take a visitor to THAT bar, right? Due to the lapse in time from writing to publication, that’s what almost every single guidebook is like: out of date, out of fashion and out of touch. If you really want to know where’s good to go, chuck the guide book and get chatting to the locals – you’ll soon find yourself enjoying the places tourists just don’t know are there.
3. Stay with a local family, not in a hotel
If you want to learn about people’s day-to-day lives, sample the local cuisine and support local businesses, rather than soulless hotel chains, staying with a homestay family is the way to go. In return for a small fee, you’ll get food and a room in a local family’s house, giving you the chance to get a privileged glimpse inside family life.
4. Learn some of the language
There’s nothing worse than the tourist who expects EVERYONE to speak English, and uses the age-old trick of talking slowly and LOUDLY to anyone who doesn’t. If you really want to interact with others, not to mention be respectful of the local culture, it’s worth learning at least a few words of the lingo. It’ll make people more receptive and friendly, meaning you have a better time abroad.
Ditch the camera and open your eyes to what’s around you! (Photo: Mikebaird)
5. Ditch your camera
While taking snapshots so you can relive the magical memories (and use them to brag to your friends on Facebook) is good, sometimes leaving the camera in your bag and really taking in your surroundings is even better. That way, you’ll really be experiencing the sights, sounds and smells around you, rather than seeing the world from behind a tiny LCD screen.
6. Eat and shop local
In cities all around the world, you see tourists who’ve flown half way around the globe to eat McDonalds burgers and sip Starbucks coffee – why?!! Aside from tiny regional differences, a McDonalds is a McDonalds. Live a little – hit the local food markets, ask people which restaurants are good, sample the street food. Not only will you broaden your horizons, your money will be staying in the country you’re in, rather than flowing back to American mega-corporations.
What do you think? Are you a tourist, or more than tourist?