Today I added a new category to Travellr named Travel Deeper. Under this category, I hope to go further than the where, what and how that I cover in Journeys and explore the cultural revelations, social issues, and life lessons that traveling the world can bring to the surface.
To help you join me on this journey of greater discovery, I’ve created a list of tips to help you Travel Deeper on your next trip.
Learn the history of your destination before you go
Now, I’m not suggesting you go and read about every single historical happening that occurred in the place you plan to explore, but a simple Wikipedia search can help you to identify significant events that have shaped the culture, society, politics, and economy of your destination to what it is today.
Get up to date with local current affairs
Keeping up with the news in your own country can be difficult, but before boarding your flight, think about browsing through the recent big news stories of your destination. Having knowledge about what’s going on in a country can be a great conversation starter with locals and can also help you to contextualize what you experience during your visit.
Read about local customs
Should you give and accept money with both hands? Do you need to take your shoes off before you sit at the dinner table? Which hand should you use to eat with? Having a pre-existing knowledge of local customs will only make your experience while traveling more enjoyable. It will prevent awkward misunderstandings and the showing of respect for your destinations customs and cultures will likely open up new opportunities for discovery and interactions with locals.
Speak to the locals
Speaking of locals, speaking to them is an excellent way to have a more enriched experience. Questions worth finding answers to include: what is it like to live there for them, what is their opinion of tourism, what do they think of your own country, what do they recommend you do, where do they recommend you eat, what should you avoid, how can you stay safe, and how can you do things cheaper. Learning a few phrases in the local language is a great way to break the ice and will surely make most locals smile in appreciation of your effort. Omniglot is a great tool for this and includes phrases for even the smallest of tribes and communities.
Stay with the locals
I should be an Airbnb ambassador with the number of times I promote them on my blog, but honestly, I love this company. The all-inclusive hotel lifestyle is nice but in no way contributes to having an authentic experience of living in a country. By staying in the home of a local you not only get to do what I mentioned above but can really embrace every element of your destinations lifestyle, right down to how and where they sleep. For me, Airbnb is my go-to for this, but other options include couch-surfing and local hostels.
Seek out authentic cultural experiences
I think one of the most authentic cultural experiences I’ve had while traveling would have to be witnessing the funeral of a member of the Ubud Royal Family in Bali. This was completely by chance and I knew nothing of it until the day of the event, but it was by speaking with locals that I was able to discover it and have one of the most memorable moments of my life. Aside from finding out about such experience through word-of-mouth, most countries have official tourism websites that will list annual cultural events that are often worth planning your travels around. For me, authentic experiences participated in by locals are way more memorable and rewarding than generic tourist attractions.
Reflect on your experience
For me, traveling deeper is not only about gaining a greater understanding of the destination you are visiting, but it is also about taking what you have learned and using this to question your own culture and norms. Many a time, people tend to exoticize the places they travel to, or can often fall into the dangerous trap of seeing some cultures/locations as simply less socially, morally or economically developed than their own. It’s a valuable thing to recognize that below the surface there often are many similarities between individuals and their relationships with one another, regardless of where they are from in the world. Additionally, it is equally valuable to know that your own culture or norms may have one or two things to gain from appreciating that of others.