Have you ever been on vacation and felt like you’ve been trapped in a “tourist bubble”? In some vacation spots, it can be difficult to connect with locals who aren’t involved with the travel industry. This is particularly the case if you’re travelling to destinations that experience high levels of tourism, such as Gold Coast and Sydney. Here are some tips for bursting through the tourist bubble on your next vacation and making deeper, stronger connections with the culture and people you are visiting.
Instead of booking into a hotel for your holiday, explore other accommodation options in the area you’ll be visiting. You could stay at a small, family-run guesthouse where you’ll be able to establish a relationship with a local family. Many areas also offer a variety of bed and breakfast (B&B) establishments where rooms within a private home are available for rent. Most B&B serves a free breakfast, giving you the opportunity to connect with your hosts and other guests over a shared meal.
Rather than relying on a guidebook to provide information about tours, restaurants, and accommodation, experiment by closing the book for a day (or even the entire trip) and asking local people for recommendations. If you ask the staff at your hotel or guesthouse where they socialise during the weekend or which cafes and bars they relax in after work, you could find yourself enjoying a meal or glass of wine with locals, instead of other tourists. By tapping into local knowledge, you may find some beautiful parks, beaches, or restaurants where you are able to observe the daily life of the community you are staying
If you’re travelling to a country where the lingua franca isn’t English, attempt to learn at least these two words of the local language: “hello” and “thank you.” Even if you’re only able to say a few words in French or Vietnamese, the fact that you’re attempting to say “bonjour” or “xin chao” (“hello” in these two languages) will indicate to local people that you’re interested in their culture and respectful of it. You may be surprised to discover how warmly you’re treated when you acknowledge the local language and try to speak it.
Consider spending a portion of your vacation doing volunteer work. Whilst it’s not always easy to find short-term volunteer options, it’s possible that your vacation spot welcomes tourist participation in “one-off” events such as a tree-planting day or a charity fun-run. As a volunteer, you may find yourself chatting to local’s as you plant trees along the Yarra River or meeting musicians while you assist backstage at a fundraising concert in Melbourne. Gaining a unique perspective on your vacation location is a valuable side-benefit of participation in volunteer work – and it may even result in new friendships.
If you choose to toss away your guidebook, get involved in a volunteer project, or stay in a family guesthouse, you could meet so many new friends that you feel compelled to vacation in the same place the following year! Or, the increased sense of travel confidence that you gain from socialising with locals could lead you to explore farther-flung destinations on your next holiday. So even if it’s just for a few hours, break through the tourist bubble on your next vacation and let a little “travel magic” into your trip.