Today’s guest post is by Mark from Migrationology, who grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and the USA. Yeah, he knows a little about landing on his feet in a new place.
Arriving in a new and peculiar place is an adrenaline boost; something to live for and something I crave. There are a number of things I do to easily get connected and plugged in to the more local scene. Without them I might instead find myself stuck with the normal aliens that stay in hostels, eating sadly modified local cuisine.
1. Find and Eat at a Small Local Eatery Frequently (everyday if delicious).
This is a simplistic way to instigate an overall winning situation, benefiting you and the servers involved. First, you get to know a local person (or people), who works an average or normal local job. Second, you are purchasing their food and they are exuberantly excited every time you eat, or when you just pass by their storefront/street stall. Third, when you build a lasting relationship with your chef, he/she is bound to start hooking you up with specials, teaching you local terms, and offering advice about non touristy things to do. Lastly, you find yourself happily satisfied while you smile upon indulging in authentic local cuisines.
2. Walk Aimlessly Around
When you arrive in a new town, city, or urban megalopolis, get off your butt and walk around. Get your bearings for the new place by setting out on an utterly unorganized stroll. Utilize all acute senses to observe, take mental notes, and see what is going on around you. This will introduce you to the sights, sounds, smells, and hopefully tastes, of the peculiar place you have ventured. Everywhere I go, I immediately put on my flip flops and hike. From Santiago to Dar Es Salaam, Dubai to Bangkok, Manila to Nairobi, and Jakarta to Buenos Aires, this strategy has never failed to be of utmost value as an introductory plug in.
3. Offer Yourself
There might not be a better way to get plugged into a new place than by offering help or encouragement to fellow humans. In every city there is opportunity to volunteer, help out, or just hang out with people who need others. In Bali I played football nonstop to the thrilling delight of orphans, in Manila, I carried bags of sand to the awe of Filipinos, and in Bangkok I ran around being myself to the laughter of refugees.
4. Use Social Networks and Media
Couchsurfing.com is a social networking website similar to facebook.com but with the intention of getting plugged in. The site can be used to inquire about a place to crash, or otherwise just to find a few local friends to hang out with who can possibly show you things about their home area from a different perspective. If you ask, local tweeters are almost always willing to give advice on how to get plugged in. Other social networking sites can also be of great value and are available to everyone who chooses to utilize the technological assets of the world we live.
5. Read Blog and Find Suggestions
With the countless blogosphere of routinely published articles there are things written to offer readable options and ways to get involved in all realms of activities. Research, digest, and use the good advice while preparing for each cultural plug-in.
6. Demonstrate Genuine Interest
If you take a brief moment to learn a few local phrases, compliment the local cuisine, smile, or just say “Hallo (even if you have no idea what’s going on)” genuinely to people, the responses will immediately plug you in and the time investment will have been well worth it. Everywhere around the world people love when you can appreciate what they do or eat on a daily basis.
7. Do Things Others Don’t Take Time to Do
Sit on a spontaneous bench, recline in a grungy market, drink copious amounts of mate in Montevideo at sunset, or be patient waiting hours for your nyama choma (grilled goat) to roast in Nairobi. Get out of the fast lane and maximize your precious time by letting it go and making the best of it. At all times be willing to listen, talk, and abide by the customs, traditions, and practices of locals.
Travel life is so much more enjoyable when you make valuable efforts to get plugged in to new and peculiar places.
About the Author
Mark Wiens (Migration Mark ) is a world wanderer, an adventure enthusiast, a cultural connector, a skilled spicy food connoisseur, a relaxing erudite, and a buffet finisher. On Migrationology, he writes about spontaneous observations from an unplanned migration of world travel.