Sometimes the only solution to your itchy feet is to hop on a plane and explore another part of the world. If you are a seasoned traveler the chances are that you’ve ventured to distant shores, hot-footed it across nations with little more than a backpack and you’ve enjoyed sampling the delights of Asia, Africa or South America. However, have you ever really immersed yourself in a culture? When backpacking or traveling across the globe, we often have to plan itineraries meaning that our stays in destinations are cut short. A week here or a fortnight there isn’t enough to experience life as a local. Take a look at the ways you can forget about thinking like a tourist and truly immerse yourself in the culture of another nation.
Learn The Language
While you might not be fluent any time soon, if you are heading to a country that doesn’t have many English speakers, it will pay dividends to put in the effort and learn some key phrases before you even set foot on the plane. You might want to grab a phrasebook, enroll in an evening language class or search for a language buddy online. Sites like Spanish Bananza describe the pros and cons of choosing to learn via an online course. While it might not give you the sort of interaction you crave, learning online can be flexible, the tutors are well qualified, and you might even get to meet some like-minded culture vultures.
When you land, being armed with even conversational level native language will endear you to the locals as they will appreciate the effort you have made learning their language instead of shouting to them slowly in your own.
Don’t just pencil in a fortnight to stay in any given destination. You really do need to consider a stay of six weeks or more to enjoy any city or region as a local would. You might want to take some paid employment, do some voluntary work and even get out of the hostel to stay with a local family. This is where you see life as it really is for the residents of any given community. You will eat their home cooked food, have valuable conversations with them and enjoy being part of their home life if only for a short while.
Don’t Go To Tourist Sites
When staying in Xi’an in China, you might be desperate to see the terracotta warriors. You’d be a fool not to see the spectacle before moving on. However, don’t fill every day you are at a destination with the same excursions and trips as every other tourist. Sit in a coffee shop and watch where the locals go. Head to the same places they go to eat, see which is the most popular bus stop and just hop on, and venture off the beaten track a little bit. Being immersed in a culture means not seeing fellow tourist faces with Nikons around their necks at every turn.
Immersing yourself well and truly into a culture needn’t be difficult. However, you do need to show commitment by learning the language, spending time outside your comfort zone and heading off the beaten track to really scratch your wanderlust itch.