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When in Rome, I really try to do as the Romans do. One of the biggest hurdles I face while traveling is not knowing the local landscape. My parents have always taken this sentiment to heart, annual summer vacations to the White Mountains of New Hampshire steeped with our longtime traditions. Anywhere else we’ve gone generally sees us wandering until something appears. As I’ve begun traveling separately, I’ve tried to maintain this, and sometimes try to be more proactive. Because, as we all know, it can be easy to lose sight given a number of variables.

We all do it: read the guidebooks, roam around the popular attractions, and then, somehow, miss the true flavors of a place. And while seeing all of the “must-sees” of any given location is always incredible (they are must-sees for a reason), it doesn’t necessarily bring you closer to the contemporary culture. History, sights, and famed dishes make my heart flutter, but my soul is ignited by the inside knowledge.

Collectively, we are becoming more conscious of and invested in the art of authentic travel. The idea of traveling like a local stems from our craving of the exotic, and our curiosity about the connectedness of culture. I think that today, given the overwhelming oomph in experiences over materials, that it’s more important than ever to continue along this vein.

Craving these sorts of trips for yourself? Here are some tips to make local travel a piece of cake!

Get recommendations from a local

The most common way to travel like a local is to score advice from one. Strike up a conversation with your barista, ask a tour guide or employee, or, heck, a neighbor. The magic words only need to be “good spot for lunch” or “afternoon free” and the golden gates of a reliable source are opened wide.

Staying in an AirBnB or HomeAway property, you’ll find most hosts leave a homemade booklet of their favorite places to go. There’s more on this point later, but leaf through the pages and decide what to add to your itinerary!

Walk around with an open mind

It started in August of 2015, when my 25-minute walk from my apartment in Dublin to the academic center spurred on an incessant obsession with my feet. (Definitely not like that.) My feet wanted to deliver me to my destination. More than that, they wanted to take me all of the roundabout ways there. I must have gotten back to my apartment at least five different ways by the end of the semester. It became my signature travel style, that walking. Walking tours, both fact and self-fabled, were often a package deal. My good friend Kayla and I found a common bond in that respect, and with cameras strung over our shoulders, would set out on weekend and longer break excursions with no clear end. Only dessert was the unspoken understanding. We reverberated in the pulse of every city’s veins, and ended up chasing quite some adventures.

All because we walked.

Still, I am a big proponent for walking, as a lot of you know. Along the way you will undoubtedly uncover some amazing finds that you wouldn’t have found otherwise. I am also a firm believer in enjoying a city in the way that you want to, not how others before you have. You don’t have to feel pressured to visit a site or eat at a restaurant because someone else said you do. Find the things that you like, and the rest will fall into place. Lacing up those shoes is the first step. Plus, you’re raking up those step counts and while scoping out a brand new place. Walking brings you to the brink of a traveler’s salvation.

And when you recount any resulting story, your reasoning will be this: “I just sort of stumbled upon it!”

Check out Instagram

Instagram often results in a rabbit hole effect. Given its revamped search tools, it’s A. clear WHY and B. worth it. I’ve found that surfing the ‘gram is the best of both worlds when looking for inspiration, because you can more efficiently cruise beyond the ordinary tourist line of vision and see some lovely photos of the real deal city.

The photo app now allows you to view stories of a location, meaning that you get to see what people are up to daily and can track those places that spark your interest. All you have to do is search for the city or country, and an image will pop up bordered by a pink and orange circle. You’ll often find a story equal parts tourist attraction and local haven.

To make a dent, start out with hashtags like #exploreCITY, #igersCITY, #CITYeats, and #CITYfoodie. City can be replaced with state and country as well. With instagram’s related hashtags feature, you can now skim a number of options closer or similar to what you’re looking for. These are perfect jumping off points for your search, and are used primarily by local instagrammers. A lot of times, you’ll find people who tag photos with other local Instagram pages, as well as the pages for certain restaurants or shops. Makes location-scouting a piece of cake, which you can find hidden gems of EVERYWHERE.

Look at “local” travel bloggers

Unsurprisingly, I often visit The Art of Exploring for Dublin-spiration and new, less-known things to do. I love her blog because she . My family and I followed her advice on visiting Herbert Park to see cherry blossoms in April! They weren’t in bloom yet, but that’s besides the point. Herbert Park itself was a nice spot for us to stroll around, be chased by ducks, and ignore the woes of mid-morning traffic beyond. The founder of World of Wanderlust lived in Berlin for a time, and some of her suggestions for brunches and sightseeing made it into my trip there. Reading the impressions of locals makes me crave those clandestine moments all the more.

Whether it’s blogs, magazines, reimagined travel sites, or even partly-based-on-real-places books you like to read, inspiration can be garnered. A couple of other great places to start are at Electrify and Here, digital travel publications with a fondness for the largely unbeknownst. Many travel writers these days like to share guides to their hometowns, or cities that they’ve spent extended lengths of time in. Check out your favorites and see what suggestions they’ve lent.

Which brings me to my next point…

Spend more than three days anywhere

For weekend trips, two or three days isn’t a big deal. You’ll sample the city’s offerings and still get the escape you were hoping for.

When it comes to extended travel, though, the longer the better. The ideal scenario is a lot of time in fewer places and later anticipating your next trip, rather than a little time in a lot of places and wishing you’d had more time entirely. I understand how hard a policy it can be to mind. Wanting to fit in as much as you can in your allotted time frame sounds perfect, in theory. We need to make the most of things; it’s in our nature.

I will speak more on this in an upcoming post, but booking a handful of flights to be taken in one vacation is exhausting and eats your time like a greedy child. Why waste something so precious on another sight that can be saved for later? And after three days, more golden gates appear and unfold. Without realizing it, those three days have made you aware of what’s behind the scenes, because by then you’ve seen and done a fair amount. There’s room to sit back and dawdle in the presence of a cafe that jumped out to you but that you didn’t make it to sooner. You’ve been given the opportunity to hit that museum you passed a few times on your way elsewhere. The more time you spread out, the more a city makes itself available, and the more you two become one.

Stay just outside main city centers

Most big cities are surrounded by eclectic, under-the-radar neighborhoods that, in some cases, are way cooler than the main attraction. They are vibrant, not oversaturated with tourists, and usually more affordable than staying directly in the city proper. You’ll get a better perspective of what it’s like to live in a given place locally, because local color stems from those areas still mostly untouched by outsiders.

The community is rooted in its space, and there is where you’ll find treasures of shops, restaurants, and activities. And then, for a while, you are weaved into the exposition of this home.

Travel in the off season

The summer months are flooded with travelers, but just pushing your dates back or forward a few months will make a world of difference. From September to April, flights, accommodations, and even attractions are significantly less expensive than they are the rest of the year. Furthermore, you won’t be stuck in a muddle of others going away on holiday.

Do yourself a favor and jet set in the off season. Already, you’ll be seeing the city in a local light.

Follow local time tables

This is specific to international travel. In countries like Spain and Italy, the norm is to eat dinner around 10pm. If you’re like me and eat five meals before 8pm regularly, I know that can be a difficult adjustment. To miss the tourist drift and plunge headfirst into immersion, do a little research on your destination’s customs. There’s more to be gained from a late night bite among natives or longtime expats, and it will probably make evenings far more attractive and memorable.

Take a class

One of my favorite travel activities to date has been taking an apfelstudel cooking class in Salzburg, Austria. It was hands on and the final product was ours to eat and take home for later, but my best friend and I entered the culture more so than we did eating apple strudel on top of a mountain (also a highly-marked experience). We were able to fully see and understand the history of the pastry as we rolled the dough into its log shape.

Cooking classes are only one option. Wine tastings, yoga and exercise classes, ceramics, cheese making, and sports lessons are among many interests out there to try out. Whatever your interests are, do a quick Google search and see what pops up for your destination. It’s one really fulfilling way to walk away gaining some new skill or knowledge about a place.

The pleasure in travel is escaping your norms to explore somebody else’s. Connecting with the genuine source of them is magic.

How do you travel like a local? What have been some of your favorite moments?
FriYAY, am I right?! We’ve made it!

For my birthday, I asked my parents for a few things: a new top, a couple of books, and a journal for traveling. I’m excitedly packing one of the journals they got me away for my trip next week. Journaling has always been a haven for me to express my thoughts freely and unconsciously, a private place to look back on conversations, moments, and memories that have been tucked into drawers of my mind that I forgot existed until I read about an encounter and am flooded with overwhelming nostalgia. I kept one religiously while I studied abroad, that I still love to reflect on, and one while I traveled last summer. I try in between big trips to journal, but it doesn’t always pan out. My journals are filled with random thoughts for stories and characters, intermingled with daily life and scribbles of poems and tangles of personal “crises.”

I love travel journaling because it’s a keepsake of every small detail that I forget to consciously remember. One of my goals for myself is to start writing regularly, but until that happens, I’ll be working hard on pages and pages of adventures. (Note to self: FINISH JOURNALING YOUR SUMMER 2017 TRIP. GOSH.) Yes, there’s the obvious day-to-day things you saw, did, and ate, but it can be so much more fun to wriggle out all of the in-betweens.

And every time I pick up the pen and listen to the creak of a new journal opening for the first time, I try to incorporate something into my writings that I didn’t previously.

Like, when I studied abroad, I captured a lot of little moments during my day, like things that made me laugh in class or times I had a nice chat with someone, but I didn’t always write about the weather or where I was at the exact moment I was penning these things down. Everyone will recount travel in the way that matters to them, and that’s what makes it a meaningful project! Here, I’d like to share some suggestions for framing your journaling.

1. Plan to write a little bit every day

It sounds easy, right? Explore by day, review by night. Or, scribble while sat at a cafe and people watching, taking a breath from the whirlwind you may be experiencing. But soon you start forgetting to pack your journal, you’re too tired when you get back to your lodging, or you just don’t feel like doing it, and the days pile up and things start to blend together. Sometimes, it becomes hard to get back into it, or days are written out of order because you just don’t want to forget what’s just happened and will backtrack later, when you have time.

I generally bring my notebook with me everywhere I go, so that if the opportunity arises, I can catch up on the day and stay up to date. It’s also a lot easier to remember what’s happened since the morning, or the last time that I journaled. Telling yourself that at a certain time every day, like sitting down to eat or taking a break, or that when you get back, you will write, even if for five minutes.

2. Start with the logistics

The other day, one of my best friends was showing me her travel journal from 2 years ago and she began her entries for every new city with a breakdown of her expenses, which is something really awesome to consider. She included the conversion rates at the time (which are ever-changing and might bring on a different wave of nostalgia), and her lodging. Now she can look back and see what she did through finances, and it charts the planning of the actual trip. Add packing lists, fight itineraries, or distance covered. I want to try this one out!

3. Jot down conversations or overheard chatter

One of my favorite things to uncover is something I heard someone on the street say, or an exchange that I had with anyone about anything. It’s fun to remember these kinds of conversations with people that made you smile and that you can always carry with you. And it says something about what you were thinking or feeling at the time, making rereads almost a vision that comes to life and returns you to those places.

4. Note the weather, the time, and your surroundings

Another way to pull yourself back into the moment is to detail what it feels like to be where you are. Noting whether it’s sunny and you can tell you’re getting burned, or it’s cloudy and spattering rain and you’re thinking the skies will soon open up, is as important to your time there as the time of day you’re writing and where you are. Being present in your journal is another dimension of being present in your travels, because you’re honing in on what is making this place, this place, and your place.

5. Write what you’re listening to

A song on your iPod might quickly become attached to the time that you landed in the first country you trekked solo. The rumbling of trucks down a cobblestone street, making deliveries to nearby bakeries, might wake you up in the mornings and become synonymous with the sweet rise of day. A cacophony of languages could lead to unprecedented joy at foreignness and desire to travel wider and further than you ever thought you might. Soak up every last sense and capture it between your pages.

6. Try stream-of-consciousness journaling

This is something I’ve loved to include and regret never doing enough of it. A free write can be messy and hard to decipher sometimes, but eventually your mind feels detached, but its energies are all being pushed into your pen as you scrawl down lines and pages of your raw thoughts. It’s like your brain explodes all over the page, in the most magical way possible, and you’re really doing nothing except relaxing, not thinking, and letting what’s going to come, come.

Try stream-of-conscious writing at the end of a trip, at the end of the day when you’ve written all you can and have nothing, you think, left to say. It’s great to not only write about what’s going on outside, but what’s going on inside you. Traveling challenges and transforms, and you want to try to open yourself up to those things you didn’t realize were happening to you, too. It’s a two-way street that you’ll want to witness.

7. Be creative in the ways that matter to you

Sketch the buildings around you. Write poems. Create sheet music for an orchestral expression of your emotions. However it makes sense for you to document your travels, do that. That is where the heart of your experiences lie, and that’s how they should remind you of what special moments you were able to have.

I hope this helps spark inspiration for your next journaling adventure! Let me know in the comments if you have any tips that you swear by 🙂