As we’ve long been passionate advocates of slow, local and experiential travel we were delighted to be invited by Skyscanner to co-host a local travel Twitter chat on Tuesday, the third in their monthly #SkyChatANZ conversations. We’d love you to drop by to join in to share your tips and hear about your experiences living like locals when you travel.
My co-hosts, Michael at @SkyscannerAUS and Robyn at @SkyscannerNZ, will be armed with questions that I’ll be answering, but we love a good chin-wag and are eager to hear about your travels. The more the merrier so please do share the #SkyChatANZ tag and the chat times (below) with your Twitter friends.
The people at Skyscanner proposed the topic of ‘living like a local’ when travelling and how we get off the tourist trail to find authentic local experiences, after Skyscanner Australia and Skyscanner New Zealand reader surveys revealed that ‘local’ and ‘authentic’ experiences were high on the ‘wanderlists’ of Aussie and Kiwi travellers.
I expect that our local travel Twitter chat might cover everything from living like a local when you travel – from settling into holiday rentals and apartments to staying in local homes – to travelling like a local, which to us means getting off the beaten track, exploring everyday neighbourhoods, and getting an insight into local lives.
Some of the topics the Skyscanner folks proposed for our local travel Twitter chat include: the best ways to find local experiences; the value of sites like Airbnb and Couchsurfing when it comes to staying with a local; our best authentic travel experiences; advice for people who want to travel like a local; and the amount of time that’s needed in a destination to really discover its heart and soul.
Have we missed anything? If you have a question you’d like to ask us to propose or a topic you want to discuss, please leave it in our Comments below by Tuesday noon and we’ll try to squeeze it in.
How to Join our Local Travel Twitter Chat
If you’re a Twitter user, you know the deal. If you’re not, sign up, and…
- follow us at @gran_tourismo and Michael and Robyn on @SkyscannerAUS and @SkyscannerNZ
- drop in at the scheduled time on Tuesday 3 May:
- 9.30pm New Zealand time
- 7.30pm Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane time
- 7pm Adelaide and Darwin time
- 5.30pm Perth and Singapore time
- 4.30pm Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam time
- enter #SkyChatANZ in the Search box to find our local travel Twitter chat and you should see the conversation flowing in the timeline.
- feel free to leap in at any time, just make sure you preface your response with the number that corresponds to the question you see that you want to answer or chat about.
Reflections on Local Travel and Living Like Locals
If you’re regular readers of Grantourismo, you’ll know that we’re firmly focused on local travel here. You’ll find scores of stories on local travel on this site, from our long-running ‘Local Knowledge‘ series of guides by resident experts and our countless ‘Home Away from Home’ reviews of rental apartments and holiday rentals we’ve settled into around the world to our tips posts on how to eat like locals and how to meet locals when you travel (including starting by saying hello). Head up to the ‘LOCAL’ category on the top bar for those stories.
Terence and I have lived like locals when we’ve travelled, for as long as we can remember. As kids, each of our families favoured ‘going local’. We have many memories of holidays staying in rented beach houses and camping grounds and caravan parks, rather than hotels and motels. For our families, travel was always about meeting local people and making new friends.
When I left Sydney for South America 20 years ago to do a year’s in-country research for my Master’s degree, the first place I stayed for a few days was the London flat of my best friend’s boyfriend’s mate. It was great. He was pleased to welcome an old Aussie acquaintance, happily showed me around, and I got a little glimpse into expat life there.
Once I arrived on Latin American soil, I spent a couple of weeks practicing my Spanish and settling in at the home of Polish-Argentine friends of my grandparents whom they’d met emigrating from Europe at the end of World War II. Their modest home was in Buenos Aires’ poor, working class, outer suburbs and it was a world away from the tango, Malbec and nightlife of ‘El Centro’ as the referred to the not-so-faraway capital. It was a little scary, it was eye opening, and it was absolutely amazing. I was sorry to leave.
One of my last stops at the end of that 1997 trip was a casa particular (home-stay) in Havana, Cuba, with a professional family who lived a very humble lifestyle compared to their counterparts in Australia, the USA or Europe. However, their cultural lives – free films one evening, ballet the next – would be the envy of anyone in the world. I had contracted malaria several months earlier so the fact they were doctors came in very handy when I was struck with another bout.
There was no HomeAway, VRBO, Roomorama, or Airbnb back then. My friend arrange the first stay, my mother organised the next, and I accepted the final invitation through a relation of the family’s I had befriended in Lima, Peru. I would end up staying in two more casa particulars on that trip, organised through filmmaker friends.
The Internet was still young and I struggled to get online in South America let alone open hotmail that year. Casa particulars were completely new to Cuba back then and were very much illegal and underground. Any sort of home-stay experience or connection with locals was arranged purely through personal connections and word of mouth.
While I think it’s incredible that there are countless websites now to connect us all with locals when we travel – to help us book local guides, find a couch to sleep on, and enjoy dinners in local homes – I have to stay that I still much prefer to connect with people the old-fashioned way: to stay a night with an old family friend, to get together for a drink with a friend of a friend, to find that you have a lot in common with the couple you meet at a bar.
Here in Cambodia, local travel experiences still very much happen that way. While there are many organised tours on offer that will enable you to engage with villagers – and we’re big fans of some of them – there’s nothing stopping you from getting into a tuk tuk and trundling off into the countryside on a Sunday afternoon and scoring an invitation to sip rice wine with a family. Sure, you might have to get bogged in front of their home as we almost did one day!
If you speak a little of the local language, you have a guide or driver who does, or you’re just very good at miming and sign language, then it’s not hard to arrange a meal or even a mat to sleep on in a local home for the night.
I often ponder whether those informal, old-fashioned connections aren’t a more authentic form of local travel than the formalised processes imposed by a website and the exchange of payments for a service?
And I frequently find myself wondering how we can encourage people to find some confidence and take the risk and interact with locals when they travel as their parents and grandparents would have done in the old days?
But maybe that natural and organic way of engaging with people is too disruptive in an age when people in developed countries appear to do almost everything online, including socialising, and struggle to even go out for a night and leave their smart phone at home.
More food for thought on the subject of Local Travel here:
- Local Travel – It’s About the People You Meet
- Musings on Local Travel and Living Like Locals in Milan
- Would You Pay to Meet a Local When You Travel?
- What is Local Travel and Is It Over Yet?
- Local Travel and the All Inclusive Holiday
- Social Travel and the Deregulation of the Travel Industry
- In The Guardian: Staying in Italy – Secrets to Enjoying Long Summer Holidays; Italian Life is Best Experienced by Living, Shopping and Eating Like a Local
What do you think about local travel and the idea of living like locals when you go on holidays? Come and let us know on Tuesday on Twitter during our Local Travel Twitter chat.