Seeing the sites in the big tourist magnet countries shortens the bucket list. But a good look at centuries old culture in off the beaten track smaller communities can be much more personally satisfying and way more fun.
You can look at a huge castle on the top of a mountain, or be part of a small village's moon festival as a welcome participant. Spectator or participant, what will it be?
Fair enough, some travel to take a break, go with the crowd and put the standard photo on Facebook. A sense of adventure is not equally distributed among all humans.
But there are people who are really interested in engagement. The memories are far richer and it means you are travelling for yourself, not your neighbours or bar buddies.
At a certain age, they're not climbing mountains anymore but their path is engagement. If this sounds like you, try these. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll discover.
Things You Can Try to Make Memories in Your Travel
1. Try work that locals do.
Do a tiny bit of farming in the rice terraces of Vietnam or Bali, night fishing with locals in Maldives or the coastal towns of the Philippines, picking vegetables and fruits in Thailand.
2. Taste local food and learn from the locals how to prepare it.
Sit down and spend some time with street vendors and watch them cook up a meal. Try exotic fruit like Durian or Dragon Fruit. It will not kill you. Get a snap of you sitting at a street corner hoovering!
3. Watch a traditional performance that locals put on.
Watch an apsara dance in Siem Reap, Cambodia or a water puppet show in Hanoi or shadow puppets in Medan.
4. Be there for traditional festivals and celebrate with the people.
Schedule your trip on big fiestas in Spain or Mexico and join the procession and the merry making. Given that there is almost a daily festival somewhere in the Philippines, it may be your best bet.
5. Join the locals when invited to weddings and other festivities
Once in Hoi An, we became friends with one of the waitresses in a restaurant in the main street.
It so happened that one of her friends was getting married and so we were invited to the event. Of course, we jumped at the occasion and had a wonderful time sharing a festive meal, talking and learning so much about local traditional rites.
We made friends, too, as seen in the smiles on the street the next day.
6. Take the subways and buses.
A bit of discomfort in exchange for a chance to talk with some of the 80% of folks who use public transport. Don’t worry…everyone will help you.
You won’t get lost. This is NOT New York. We’ve had passengers getting off at our stop to keep showing us the way till we found our target destination.
7. Eat the way locals do.
Sit in a small stool in the streets of Hanoi and try some local food. Get you right hand in action in Mumbai or Pune in a Thali restaurant.
8. Visit an artisan or artist in the city or an art gallery.
See some of the fine works of the local artists. If there are local craft villages, go there on your own….not as part of a tour. Wander, smile and look interested. It is amazing how qhickly you’ll become part of the action.
9. Visit a museum or two.
Try for a small one if you can. The staff will be much more interested in chatting and less jaded by tour group wing nuts.
10. Visit a Temple or Wat or Mosque or Church.
Sit down and look around. Try to get a sense of the history of the place. Almost always there is someone there who has time for a chat.
Slow down and enjoy. It took a thousand years to create the feeling there so it must be worth more than a fleeting glance and a sprint to the next site.
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