I started this blog with a post on how to live like a local when travelling, and since then the ideas have continued to percolate. So -one idea would be to join the locals running in a marathon in another city dressed as a superhero (shown in the photo behind this headline -and if you guessed that this was Los Angeles, you would be right). That’s not for everyone. Here are five more (easier) ways to live like a local:
1. Bring your dog
If you’re travelling by car with your dog, you’ll automatically gravitate to dog-friendly sites (shady in summer, off-leash trails and parks, accessible water). Ask locals for directions to these while you are with your dog. Just about everyone -in North America at least- will be friendlier to you if you have a canine escort. Be sure to check out corresponding regulations for bringing dogs if you’re travelling to a country where you and your dog don’t live. You may just need a doggie passport aka vaccination certificate. But some countries are more prohibitive than others, and require a quarantine.
If you’re arriving by air and Fido hates flying, check out the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and see if they’ll let you borrow one and give a homeless dog some exercise. (Pre-plan by making inquiries before you leave home.) If that doesn’t work, visit an off-leash park with a juicy sandwich and you’ll have instant friends! As a last resort, look up an independent pet store and buy your dog a souvenir of the trip she didn’t come on. Chances are, it will be in a fun neighbourhood filled with all sorts of interesting creatures (2- and 4-legged). One of my favourites, recommended by a friend living in the neighbourhood: Woofgang in Vancouver’s Cambie Village. For basic phone, hours and address, click here.
2. Bring your picnic basket for proper picnicking.
It doesn’t have to be big -it can even be a picnic back-back, just as long as you have utensils, a tablecloth, and plastic wineglasses to show the world you’re really classy. (In some places, wine and parks are a legal combination.) You’ll fit right in with all the other locals dining al fresco in the square or at the beach. Having the right equipment also makes it more likely that you actually picnic, which is also a great way to reduce dining out costs.
3. Sign up for a language course
As noted in Post#1, even just knowing a handful of words in the local language can open doors for you. Why not expand on the benefits by taking a language Immersion course in a holiday destination? Some of the best courses may be a bit long for a typical holiday. But several schools have developed shorter courses for this very reason. Many decades ago I learned French this way. While I haven’t taken any of the following, (so please do your own research into the most effective ones) examples of short-term (i.e. two-week) courses include: French immersion in Provence through Crea langues (French for languages), shown here; or Spanish immersion on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula through The Open School of Ethnography and Anthropology (shown here ).
4. Sign up for an art course that locals take.
While a two-week artist’s tour of Tuscany sounds ideal, in practice these packages can be costly -and you’re stuck for many hours a day for weeks with the same people. In most cities locals also like to stretch their creative abilities. This includes short-term classes (e.g. short courses with a specialist focus), although here again, plan/book ahead. In my home province (British Columbia), most community recreation (leisure) centres advertise course listings on their websites. Just google a city name and the words “community centre” or “recreation centre”, then look for that centre’s list of classes.
My home town (Victoria) is filled with artists. And I love boosting my creativity with a very reasonably-priced class through Poppet Studios (click here http://www.poppetcreative.com/ ). The owner is a great teacher who has a network of art instructors at her disposal. I’ve taken both an encaustic collage course and a brass/copper jewellery-making class through Poppet, each class for less than $100 (Canadian) for 3-6 hours of instruction, although prices vary. Short, sweet, positive, and lots of fun, even for a rank amateur!
5.Rent a bicycle instead of a car
You don’t have to be a super athlete to cycle. In North America we sometimes risk thinking that only the fit are allowed to ride. But in Europe where more people cycle as a mode of transportation, people of all shapes ride, wearing their street clothes rather than hardcore cycling gear. Even if you haven’t cycled in years, use the excuse of a holiday to try something new.
Many cities have become known for their cycling infrastructure like Copenhagen, and Portland. In summer, even more cities get into the act by ensuring not just good routes but easily rented public bikes: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, New York, and even Boulder (Colorado) to name a few. And by renting a city bike you may even be doing more good than you know. Learn about an entrepreneur who set up a bike manufacturing and assembly shop in Detroit, boosting the local economy of a city in need of investment, and supplying his end product to cities like New York, by clicking here . (The city planner in me loves a good urban revitalization / economic redevelopment story!)
You can enhance your connection to your destination of choice with four-legged help, on wheels, dining al fresco, or by expanding your learning horizons. Ultimately, the most authentic travel experience is often made up of life’s simple pleasures. Keep watching for more tips for living like a local when you travel in future posts.