NOTHING screams tourist more than the loud, selfie stick-wielding man with a fanny pack attempting to ‘hold up’ the Leaning Tower of Pisa before rushing back to the tour bus to head to the next Instagram photo opportunity.
While most of us spent our twenties rushing from one monument to the next to tick sites and cities off our bucket lists, these days, there’s a huge push towards conscious, or slow, travel.
Of course, it’s normal to want to document your trip however putting down the iPhone and truly experiencing a country and its culture from the inside makes for an authentic, immersive and pretty magical experience.
Here are our tips on how to be a traveller, not a tourist:
Do your research
Research a destination before arriving and learn about the lives and culture of the local people. Dress appropriately, abide by the local laws, respect the customs and the environment if you want to avoid upsetting the locals. You will also earn respect – and stand out from other travellers - by learning a few phrases of the native language.
Eat the food
I recently travelled to Sri Lanka and was just as excited about trying their local curries as I was about adventuring through this beautiful island nation. One of the best parts of travelling the globe is trying the local cuisines which is a representation of various cultures so avoid playing it safe and heading for the nearest McDonalds or Starbucks when you’re in a new city. We always try to steer clear of restaurants on the main tourist drags – and their tourist menus - and seek out local eateries tucked in the back streets. This allows for a more authentic experience, is usually cheaper and the food will be much more flavoursome.
When we travel, we try to visit local famers’ markets, eat at locally owned family restaurants and buy from local artisans to ensure the local community benefits from our dollars. We also try to make genuine connections with the local people and stay in smaller establishments or homestays, which ensures you have a more immersive and exciting experience while also giving back to the local community.
Take the bus
One of the best - and most affordable - ways to see a new country or city and meet and chat with the locals is to take public transport.
Remember the pre-GPS and Google Maps days when getting lost in a new city was part and parcel of travelling. Leave your iphone and guidebook at the hotel or AirBnB and get out there and explore. Wander the streets, attempt to converse with locals in their native language and soak up the sights and sounds of your new surroundings. You'll no doubt discover some hidden gems and meet some new friends along the way.
The road less travelled
Yes, Paris, Rome and Venice are certainly iconic cities that everyone should see at some point in their lives however if you want to avoid being shoulder-to-shoulder with other snap happy tourists, perhaps opt for an alternative and less-crowded destination. Instead of Venice, try Verona or the Austrian city of Vienna; and skip Paris in favour of Aix-en-Provence in southern France.
Out of season
If you do want to visit one of the world’s most popular cities but don’t want to look like a tourist or deal with the crowds, travel outside of peak seasons. Often the weather is just as good in the shoulder season, plus it’s less crowded and sometimes cheaper.