How Lost Girls Can Connect With Locals While TravelingCouchsurfing, Travel Philosophy — By Lost Girls on January 23, 2012 at 6:00 am
“Connecting with locals did not just enhance my trip—it made my trip!” said Yolanda Clatworthy, an avid Lost Girl who was recently discovered as the Ulimate Triptrotter by the new travel start-up, Triptrotting. After winning the contest, Yolanda spent part of summer 2011 traveling the world and connecting with locals throughout Europe.
“I think that connecting with locals has many of the same inherent characteristics as connecting with people in your own city,” she said. “Meaning, if you can strike up a conversation with the barista at your local café or meet a complete stranger on a bus, then you have a pretty good chance of doing the same thing abroad.”
But if chatting up a stranger while traveling sounds intimidating to you, there are many other ways to connect with locals abroad. Why not enroll in a cooking course while in Paris or sign up for a tango class in Buenos Aires? No matter where you are in the world, there are always new skills to learn outside a classroom.
Nowadays, there are even ways to get to know locals before you arrive—thank you, Internet. Triptrotting is just one of them. Yolanda recalls that the website “is fantastic in that it removes the hard bit of connecting with locals: finding them!” Not only was she able to email people before she arrived, but the site also matches you with people of similar interest. Thus, you won’t have to learn those tango steps alone (you might even find a partner to fall in love with!). The great part is that Triptrotting is open to all, meaning that all you Lost Girls can use it, too.
In fact, you can go even further and instead of just meeting up with a local, live with one. Websites can link you up with a local host. In addition to Triptrotting, consider the by now famous CouchSurfing to find a quick place to crash. As you settle in to prepare dinner with your host, you can learn a lot about a foreign culture. The idea is to come with an open mind and transcend the normal tourist experience. If you’re looking to find a local guide, check out websites such as ToursByLocals, GuidedByALocal, TouristLink, or Localyte. If you’re lucky, your specific destination will even have a site dedicated just to local tour guides in that area. Buenos Aires, for example, offers the opportunity to learn about the Argentinean capital through a Buenos Aires free tour.
While you’re connecting with locals, listen close for some local phrases. Language is an essential communication tool. It’s incredible what a difference speaking the local language can make. People will take you more seriously, and you’re less likely to get ripped off. Making friends will be easier as well, and they, in turn, can teach you things about the local culture you would otherwise not have discovered. Before you go, check out Livemocha.com or a similar site, to learn some of the local lingo. Once in-country, you can enroll in an intensive language course to polish up your grammar, and practice with locals to learn the real colloquial phrases.
All in all, connecting with locals can make your trip more memorable and rewarding. Yolanda herself recalls that “Not only were these people locals, they were people with friend-potential (whether at home or abroad!).” Stay in touch with your new friends after the trip, and perhaps you can reciprocate the local experience when they come to visit you. “After all, there are only so many pretty paintings and iconic landmarks you can see before one city blends to the next. It is the people that made the difference in each city that I visited,” Yolanda concludes.
Bonus Tip: Jen, Holly and Amanda’s Lost Girls pick for the best site for meeting locals (and fellow travelers) is Tripping. You can connect with locals who will introduce you to the hidden neighborhood gems (such as that cozy writers’ cafe) and cultural activities (like neighborhood football games) that you may never come across on your own. Plus, you’ll get an inside glimpse into the culture by being able to hang out with the people who live in the area you’re visiting.
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