We seem to get lucky with this quite a lot. I’m not sure whether we’re good, or have a knack, or it just comes with travel experience, but we sure as hell get lucky. You haven’t travelled if you just stayed in your hotel, you haven’t visited a country if you sat by the pool and ate shit, oh sorry, ” international cuisine “. All inclusive? No thank you. Instead of “hungry travellers” we nearly called this blog, “notapoolinsight.com”
So our aim is always to meet the local people, eat their food, drink their beers, find their bars, understand their history, learn their culture, put money in their pockets instead of into the pockets of invisible corporates. And yeah we get lucky. Like eating in the jungle home of Mangala and his family (see the “about” page), like stumbling upon an entire village partying in the Turkish mountains and joining in (it was a young boy’s circumcision party!), like getting blind drunk in a backstreet Greek bar while the locals sang like pissed uncles at a wedding. And so many great bars, terrific meals, and cheap, authentic food, we’ve long since lost count of how many free drinks we’ve been given.
How do you get this lucky? Well. Here’s our tips…..
Research first. Read their customs, learn etiquette, avoid offending. Know how to behave in that country. Learn where the tourist areas are so you know what to avoid.
Talk to your host. Backpacking takes you into small hotels, pensions, people’s homes, apartments, shacks, whatever. You find your bed through the host, your new landlord. Tell him or her what you want to find and they will help you find it. Ask!
Look and listen. Watch for noisy bars, listen for chatter in the local language, look for music. Look down alleys and back streets.
Communicate. Smile when you speak. Make eye contact. Learn at least a few words in the local language. Just a few mispronounced words makes people smile. At least know how to order a beer. You might want to know the word for “room” too!
Talk to strangers in bars. Ask for directions. Start conversations in shops. Stop being British!!
Don’t show off. Be careful not to offend with jewellery, cameras, expensive stuff. Respect the local way.
Ask bar owners about other bars. Ask restaurant owners about other restaurants.
Above all, genuinely – that’s genuinely- be interested in learning about people, and lives.
Well, that’s our way, anyway. Or at least it’s how we start. It’s what you travel for. Surely.