walking in Liege

4 simple ways to feel like a local while traveling

Ever since I started traveling on my own, I’ve liked to pretend that I live wherever I’m visiting. Which neighborhood would I want to live in? Which coffee shop would be my favorite on my way to work? Where would my friends and I go dancing? It’s fun to find ways to feel like a local.

Staying with a local through Airbnb, Innclusive, or Couchsurfing makes it easy to get a good sense of local life. But home sharing is not everyone’s cup of tea. Still, there are ways to get a good sense of a place and feel like a local without laying your head on someone else’s pillow.

sitting outdoors at a table, with pre-dinner snacksShare a meal

There’s a plethora of sites and apps that enable travelers to connect with a local person or family that you can share a home-cooked meal with for a reasonable fee. I’ve heard good things about Mealsharing and EatWith. There’s also WithLocals, Traveling Spoon, and BookaLokal. So many options! I’m going to start trying these, and when I do I’ll report back here.

And if you’ve tried any of these (or other) meal sharing opportunities in your travels, please share them in the comments below!

Take a free walking tour

people walking in covered bazar in BudapestTaking a walking tour is a great way to orient yourself when you first land in a location. For city walks, just Google the city + free walking tour. These are either free, tip optional, or pay-what-you-can. I pretty easily found these for Berlin:

For walks in the great outdoors, look for a hiking club, birders, search for hiking clubs, hiking Meetups, or ask for recommendations from staff at stores that sell outdoor gear.

attend a local Meetup

people socializing at restaurantI did a quick search on Meetup Mexico City, and was very excited to find:

Besides Meetup, you can get in touch with local expat organizations, look at universities for signs advertising language tutors, and post a question on the TripAdvisor forums.

Go to a small concert

band plays guitars, keyboard, saxophoneI’ve been attending concerts organized by Sofar in my home town. They are small gatherings where the focus is on the music. So when the musicians are playing, everybody listens to them, rather than talking or texting or otherwise being distracted. It’s pretty special. Sofar is international, so I plan to try to get tickets (you have to throw your name into the electronic hat) for their events during my travels.

I also like restaurants that have musical acts or a small show. In some towns, the town square where everyone walks at night will have regular night every week where music is played. I find this easier to do if I’m traveling solo than going to a big, noisy concert.

I even had the pleasure of getting a concern on the short ferry ride from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen. They played with such gusto, and they definitely made me much happier than the sad informational video I was subjected to on the ferry I took to the island!

So, dear reader:
How do you get a sense of a place?
Leave your ideas in the comments below!

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