Local travel is about the people you meet as much as the places you visit. Connecting with locals is going to be a major part of what we do here on Grantourismo. Because sometimes it’s the people as much as the places that make travel meaningful and memorable.
Local Travel is About The People You Meet as Much as the Places You Visit
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 journey.
For us, it’s the people you meet, as much as the places you visit, that makes travel more meaningful and memorable. And connecting with people is essentially what Local Travel is all about.
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, and one that we know we have contributed to — there might be an interview with a local or a box with insider tips, but the inclusion of anything more 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?
We think so. 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, will be at the heart of Grantourismo.
This quest of ours arose partly out of the frustration (which you can read about here) that 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 advice 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 — the heart — of how we travel from now on and the central focus of our one year grand tour of the world.
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.
We’re going to be introducing them to you, and asking 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 stories about interesting locals we encounter under Local in ‘Meet‘.
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 the epic journey we’re about to begin?
How important is it to you to meet locals when you travel? We’d love to hear what you think.
Pictured? Some of the people we met across the Middle East in recent years who have made our work as travel writers all the more meaningful and more memorable.
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!
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.
Terence Carter says
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.
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!
Terence Carter says
Thanks for your comments Bryan. It’s just so true for us as well and hopefully this year we’ll get to spend more time with the people we meet.
Love the photo collages with most of the posts, including this one.
Terence Carter says
Thanks so much! More to come soon…
Prêt à Voyager says
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 :)
Iain Mallory says
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.
Rebecca Stasko says
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 :)
Lara Dunston says
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!
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!
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.
Mike Phillips says
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.
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 :)
Hal Peat says
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.
I couldn’t agree more Lara. And it’s not necessarily people you spend a whole lot of time with but often the small interactions; a chat at a coffee shop in Damascus with two inquisitive and intelligent locals; a random meet at a hotel in Lebanon that kicked off a friendship that has lasted years; or the guy at a deli in Italy who insisted you taste his home cured salami. I would say it’s the people more than anything else that influence the experience. I can’t count how many times people ask what was the thing I enjoyed about some place that Ioved and my answer is ‘the people’.
Love your work and look for eased to reading more.
Lara Dunston says
Thanks, Victoria. Completely agree. Some of the most memorable and most delightful encounters with people can be those small magic moments. Thanks for the kind words also! Much appreciated.