Travelling with locals "off the beaten track" - what have you experienced?

I have often heard it said that you will experience more of a city if you hang out with the locals and that was certainly true on my trip to Japan. I'm lucky enough to have some really good Japanese friends and they planned an itinerary for me that included not only the main tourist attractions but places that I would never have experienced without them. One day, my friends took me into a rural, traditional Japanese pub to eat lunch. It was tiny, we were the only people there and the atmosphere was serene and cosy. We sampled some really unusual food and the owner chatted away to the girls (he didn’t speak any English), asking where I was from and what my name was. He then rolled out a karaoke machine and asked the girls to please ask me to sing a Beatles song. I obliged (out of tune), but he smiled away throughout, bowed his thanks and gave us all a free drink afterwards. Where have you travelled with locals and experienced something you wouldn’t have done as a lone tourist?

2015-09-09 03:27:00 - 5 Replies

  • When I visited Israel, I definitely got off the beaten track. Because I was traveling with an Israeli family, I saw so much of the Israel that they love – swimming in the Red Sea of the resort town Eilat, visiting vineyards in Golan Heights, and even simple stuff like ordering the typical “hummus chips salad” in a low-key diner. Even further off the beaten track for me, I was invited to participate in Passover, an important Jewish holiday (I’m Buddhist!). My hosts provided me with an English version of the traditional book, and I even got to participate in reciting some readings out loud. It was really interesting and definitely something I never would have done (or even been able to do) if I wasn’t with locals. I think traveling with locals gives you a deeper, more meaningful and authentic experience.

    2015-09-09 15:15:46
  • Madrid is such a sprawling city, and on the surface it can feel impersonal, not unlike major North American metro centers like New York. However, like you and during my last trip, friends and I decided to get away from the crowds of tourists and venture into a part of town called San Blas via the oldest and longest road in the city: Calle de Alcalá. It seemed like a road to nowhere at first and eventually, feet aching, famished and thirsty, more like a road to hell. We decided to stop in one of a half dozen local pubs on our trek back toward Madrid's Center and our hotel. No one in the pub knew a word of English, and our Spanish was limited, but somehow we managed to have amazing, laughter filled conversations with the staff and other customers around us. One beverage turned into a few, and although we'd only ordered a couple of items from the tapas menu, the restaurant owner kept insisting we eat more and so the plates of shrimp, ham, cheese, olives, octopus, and things I can't even name just kept flowing from the kitchen. We certainly lost track of time and our short stop had transformed into four hours. We realized that there were no actual prices on the menu and started joking that all the warmth, fun and food might have just been a ruse to get us naive tourists to increase our tab, and we laughed that our bill would be in the hundreds of dollars. In the end, we didn't spend more than 60 Euros for four of us, and venturing again on that sprawling roadway, we all realized that it was here, off the beaten track on the outskirts of central Madrid, in a plain and unassuming little pub, where we discovered the heart of the Spanish people and the real Madrid. In retrospect, the road, Calle de Alcalá is a significant one in the history of the city and it would have been great to have had a local guide as we traveled its length.

    2015-09-19 06:09:06
  • Some great stories on here guys. When I first arrived in South America I didn’t speak more than about 5 words of Spanish. However, through the powers of sign language and sheer stubbornness I made friends with some locals when I got to Bolivia. One day I got invited to head out for a barbeque in the countryside. I think it was the furthest from civilisation I had ever been until then. It was a weird but amazing experience heading out there in a battered old truck over dirt tracks and then walking through rivers. Coming from the UK I am used to having towns and cities right next to me all the time but here there seemed to be no living soul for miles around and it was just mountains, waterfalls and rivers everywhere I looked. The food was pretty good too :) It was a terrific experience and one of the guys pulled a guitar out so we started singing Bolivian tunes and drinking some wine to finish off the meal. At this point, I learned that I probably sing better in Spanish than in English. Getting off the beaten track is definitely a good thing, as long as you are sensible and dont get into any situations that you could later reget. In my case, my only regret was getting sunburned and looking like a lobster for a week afterwards

    2015-09-23 11:17:27
  • A little bit about Panama here. I moved to Panama because I'd been having a hard time walking a block without stopping to rest. So I went to a doctor there she advised e I had serious heart problems. A triple bypass surgery cost me less that $10,000 in cash across the border in Barranquilla Colombia, but convalescing in Panama I was lying in a second floor bedroom looking out the window watching little tiny pure yellow birds smaller than sparrows drilling holes in the sides of Papayas the size of watermelons hanging 20 feet in the air. The birds would drill their way in and many flew in and ate the insides out and the rest would rot and fall to the ground and the birds would start on the next one. A sloth lived in the same trees and a family of monkeys would scream at him, but he just gave the the finger! Waving his claws at them, claws as long as my fingers.

    2015-10-26 11:29:57
  • I am now and have been for 4 years in the Dominican Republic. Great place for touristing. Young or old, alone or with the family. Beaches that won't quit, Pretty girls if that is what you look for on vacation. Good looking guys too. I had a pair of women from Sweden in my van for 4 days and they found a pair of local men to stop by their hotel room and keep them entertained so well they canceled their tour for the fifth and final day. We have here all manner of water sports including diving and kite boarding. Come on down and have the time of your life. I advise people to stay away fro the AI Places. That is the all inclusive hotels. They can include the food and beer, but not the fun of exploring on your own or with a local guide. Don't speak Spanish? I speak enuff for both of us! The 27 waterfalls is a local must see. One climbs up the falls 7, ten or all 27 and slides down into the pools. I have never taken anyone there who wasn't totally delighted. Local places to stay range fro the primitive to de Lux. $20.00 per night to as high as you wish to pay.

    2015-10-26 11:43:39
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