When you go through life with your eyes open but your mind closed, you will be surprised at how much you are missing. The same goes for when you are traveling somewhere.
In order to see the true beauty of this new destination, you need to know how to pay attention to details. Use your senses and really understand what this place is all about.
Here are four ways to soak up all the details from the sights, smells and tastes to make the most of your travel:
Savor the Food
It can be tempting to stick with what you know when it comes to food. You think you know what you like but when you’re visiting a foreign place there will be foods you have never encountered before.
Don’t say no to the tasty morsels just because they aren’t familiar — say yes because they are unfamiliar.
You can get to know the traditions of a place and people through their cuisine. What ingredients are used can tell you about the history, the influences and the culture you’re visiting.
Forget trying to find a descent cup of coffee or a familiar menu item, instead take a chance and get to know the new place through the food.
You don’t need to break the bank and go to a fancy restaurant. Street food is a great option. It’s usually cheap and a great access point into the culture.
Some may warn you against trying street food — warning of impending sickness, but there are ways to avoid bad food and still get to know the local delicacies.
Engage with the Locals
Sure, it can be nice to stay in a luxurious hotel or resort, but it cuts you off from the outside world. Plus, hotels can be pretty cookie cutter from city to city and country to country. You could also save some money and stay in a hostel but then you’re most likely surrounded by other travelers.
To get a true sense of the culture you’re in, try staying with a local. You can accomplish this by staying at an accredited bed and breakfast accommodation or checking out home stays on AirBnB. This will allow you to stay in the home of a local and eat food prepared by them. You can’t help but get a local perspective and a taste of what it’s like to live in the place.
You can also try Couchsurfing, which is a little rougher around the edges but still will get you to meet and stay with locals. They’ll be able to fill you in on local haunts, little-known gems and sights worth seeing off the tourist beaten path.
Take a Seat
Don’t be in a rush to see and do everything that your guidebook says. Take the time to just sit. Yup, just stay still in a park or at a café along the street.
This will allow you to witness daily life. People watching will not only relax you as a kind of meditation, it will also familiarize you with the fashion, the etiquette and culture you’re visiting. It is a simple and inexpensive way to get to know your surroundings.
Use Public Transit
You can also take public transit, instead of jumping in a cab. Sure you won’t necessarily get to your destination as quickly, but you’ll see so much more.
When you navigate the public transit, be it a subway, bus or train, you will be among the residents of the place you’re visiting. You will engage with everyday people and a get a better sense of the place as well as its people. You won’t be a voyeur but instead an active participant in the street scene.
Don’t Plan Too Much
It can be tempting to plan you days but if you are paying attention while you travel there will be unexpected adventures that present themselves.
Leave yourself and your schedule open enough that you can follow your curiosity and embrace the surprises. You can’t plan for the unexpected but you can be open minded enough to be able to say yes to it.
When you’re traveling next, make sure to keep yourself open to the small details of the locale you’re visiting. By engaging with the people, places, flavors and sights and sounds, you will have an enriched experience, one to write home about.