Local Travel — It’s About The People You Meet.

Local Travel — It’s About The People You Meet

Local travel and connecting with locals is going to be a big part of what we do here on Grantourismo. Because sometimes it’s the people you meet on your travels, as much as the places you visit, that makes travel meaningful and memorable.

Whether it’s an all-night conversation with an engaging character on a plane or train, the friendly receptionist on the hotel desk who never forgets your name, the owner of the corner store you buy your groceries from who teaches you a new phrase everyday, or an artist who enlightens you with insights into their culture you never imagined possible, simple or complex, encounters with locals, with strangers who become friends, can really make a trip and become one of the things we treasure most about a travel experience.

Yet whenever we read (and write) travel guidebooks, the majority of the content is always about the places to go, the things to see, and the stuff to do. Occasionally — and it’s certainly a growing trend — there might be an interview with a local or a box with insider tips, but the inclusion of anything to do with real living-breathing people is rare.

And yet for many travellers, meeting people is a major part of their travel experience. So why don’t we have more guidebooks and magazine stories that introduce us to local people and more text about the local people we might meet on our travels? Would these things not be just as much an incentive to explore a destination as a museum or art gallery listing?

For us, meeting people has been one of the most pleasurable parts of our work as travel writers — which is why we decided that meeting locals, local travel, living like locals, and learning locally, would be such an integral part of Grantourismo.

This quest of ours arose partly out of the frustration we’d experienced working as travel writers where we’ve met people we’ve found fascinating — sculptors and chefs, politicians and poets, musicians and filmmakers — and yet we’ve not been able to spend more time getting to know them.

Because it is those local people, especially people with expertise and specialised knowledge, who always give us the best tips for restaurants, bars, local markets, shops, music venues and art galleries, the tips that make it into the guidebooks we write that travellers now use.

As a result, we’re making it an integral part of how we travel from now on: we’re going to be on an ongoing mission to meet locals, and to get to know local neighbourhoods, villages, towns, and cities through the eyes of locals, to introduce them to you, and to ask them to share their insider secrets, hidden gems, local tips on what you should do, where you should go and what you should eat, and how they recommend you should go about ‘living like locals’ in their hometown.

We’ll be tapping into these local perspectives, insights and experiences through our Local Knowledge interview series and filing other posts about interesting locals we encounter under The People You Meet category.

Because for us, it’s these kinds of interactions with locals that make the experience of a place all the more enriching and authentic. And besides, how many guidebooks can we lug around on our neverending journey?

How important is meeting people for you? Do you make an effort to meet locals when you travel? And when you befriend people, how crucial are those encounters to your experience of a place, and whether you enjoyed it or not? We’d love to hear what you think.

Pictured? Some of the people we met across the Middle East who have made our work as travel writers all the more enriching.




There are 16 comments

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  1. Antonio

    I believe people make most of the times “the” difference in one’s travel experience. In over 20 years of travelling around the world and visiting around 50 countries I met some of the most incredible and nicest people I could ever imagine. It was them who got me out of trouble when I was in trouble. It was them with whom I spent some of the most memorable moments while visiting their countries. And many of them are still good friends today! A chance to set up friendships that last and contribute to make the world a smaller and nicer place. I often seize the day and having someone in another country is many times a strong aid to make you jump on the first plane even when you are lazy and only have a weekend and go see that person again or spend a beautiful weekend, if not more in a foregin place. The people you meet are often a mirror where you see yourself, you learn a lot, you remember to be humble, you open up your mind…all positive things that allow you to live a better life and transmit such feeling at least to those near you. This has been my life so far, and I could not ask for a better way of spending it. Luckily enough, I now have a wife and a daughter who I am sharing the path with and this makes travelling this way even more rewarding.

  2. Angela

    Meeting people is my favourite aspect about travelling, everywhere I go I exchange emails with everybody, and I keep in touch as much as I can.
    I always try to visit a place with locals and whenever I can, I include some dialogues in my articles, everybody has some story to share!
    Can’t wait to “meet” the locals you’ll be writing about!

  3. Terence Carter

    Antonio, beautifully put! Agree 100%.
    Angela, it’s interesting as well the connections that you make. We’ve met people who we’ve put in touch with other people in different countries and they’ve gone on to form friendships as well – I’m sure that this is your experience too. It’s especially nice when your friend in another country is an artist, musician or a chef who has a circle of interesting friends as well. We’ve also found that there is a camaraderie amongst people who have travelled well – and an openness to new experiences.

  4. Bryan

    I also agree with Antonio. My wife and I just finished a year long trip, and we met some amazing people on our journey. This really brings back some memories. Our favorite stories and adventures are the ones where a stranger invited us to their house for lunch, or where we met people in restaurants or coffee shops who gave us great advice on places to see. Thanks!

  5. Prêt à Voyager

    long before social networking, jim haynes (of the paris dinner series) did just that – he wrote travel guides with nothing to do or see in a place. his travel “guide” books only contained lists of names and contact info (pre-email) for people in a given place. it really is all about people and encounters. that’s why i prefer coffee shops over mega-tourist spots. also, if someone sees me writing a postcard or working in my journal it helps open doors to talk :)

    anne

  6. Iain Mallory

    I think you are already aware how I feel about the people that you meet on a visit to a destination. The people are the heartbeat of a country and it is them that provide the culture.

    Whether visitng a totally alien culture or one a little closer to our own it is them that can make or break a trip.

    Recent visits to both Catalonia and Greece have only reaffirmed my conviction.

    In Catalunya I met many people filled with passion for their own nation and culture, and it is easy to be carried along with such enthusiasm.

    The people I met in Greece in a time of crisis were exceedingly friendly and warm, their generosity was quite overwhelming.

    Meeting people is an important part of the expereince for me and would encourage any traveller to make an effort to do so whenever they can.

  7. Rebecca Stasko

    I the love the photos of the locals!

    Meeting people when travelling and learning more about their reality is number one for me for all the reasons mentioned above. But the reality is, striking up a conversation with locals can be difficult for some independent travellers and hence they remain in more of a bubble (hence why founded my company).

    Your question as to why more is not written on opportunities to meet with real people (locals), when travelling is as trivial as why great teachers aren’t paid more than pro baseball players if teachers make the real difference in our lives.

    Maybe its because hotels are sexier? A vacation is still considered by many, to be made up of your flight, hotel and ground transport and unfortunately, for many, those components are also just easier to write about – (and replicate too).

    Congrats to you two who have found an elegant way to portray both the locals you meet and the details surrounding the time you spend with them :)

  8. Lara Dunston

    Hi Ian – totally agree with you. We’ve just done a 6-day train trip on the Southern Spirit in Australia and met some lovely people from all over Australia, and now we’re in Adelaide working on a food-focused story and meeting some fascinating chefs and restaurant managers. People really make the place – or the experience. Thanks for dropping by!

  9. Louise

    While I tend not to make ongoing connections, one of the joys of travelling for me is to chat with locals; it’s an essential part of the experience of being in another country and a source of great pleasure. I especially enjoy trying to communicate in the local language and poking fun at my often bumbling linguistic performances — it’s great fun to share a laugh with the locals!

  10. Anders

    Hi,
    as I always cycle touring alone the people I meet is always the most important. Most people are very friendly and helpful when you are on a bike.

  11. Mike Phillips

    I agree with so many here. We will see some amazing scenery
    In our travels,some good and some not so good,but that’s part of travel ,(for me anyway). But I take home with me,some great memories and contacts in some really genuine and unique people. That’s such a huge lure for travel. I had a great lunch and dinner at a locals home in Cambodia,there was a language
    barrier,but the smiles amongst us told it all.

  12. Lavanya

    The more I travel, the more I want to interact with locals than other travellers. I think with time it all gets kinda similar -where you from, where are you going, how long are you staying here for? -talk with travellers. But with locals even the 10 minutes you spend can always be unique.
    We found this to be most true on our recent trip to Iran where we spent a whole month and most of that time staying with locals who are now good friends through hosting sites. It is a great way to meet people from a country especially one as shrouded in mystery as Iran :)

  13. Hal Peat

    I’d say your topic is profoundly important for anyone on the road nowadays in a world that’s more interconnected on more levels than ever – yet it’s the human connection that provides the essential ingredient beyond monuments, hotels, festivals or whatever other “thing” you’re traveling for.

    Just in the course of casual travel, I can honestly say in my own lifetime that some of the most memorable relationships I’ve had in my life turned out to be with other travelers that I got to know as real friends that forever marked that period of my life. Also, just in the course of travel as a travel journalist, I’ve been fortunate enough on a personal level to again have that type of lasting encounter. I’d add that on a professional and creative level, having access to the insight and perspective of someone who is a longtime resident or native of a city or country is just immeasurably valuable. Launching a new travel site myself just in recent weeks, I’ve found that in terms of content I’ve consciously reached back a lot to those types of relationships to be able to tell with authentic voices about that city and part of the world.


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