There are so many reasons why I travel across the borders dotted on maps, and as many why I’m never happier when doing so. This is ultimately why I ended up working in travel.
Before I first set off backpacking at the tender age of 21, travel never had any appeal; 19 years later it’s literally all I think about. I’m forever plotting and scheming about my next trip and typically have three planned, even if it’s only in my head.
But what makes exploring this big wide world so appealing? I could say it was trying food and beer in the countries they originate from, long bus trips where the scenery changes to suit the altitude, or seeing those sites which make me pull the camera from my bag. However, for me I don’t think any of those reasons hit the nail on the head.
When I compare trips I’ve enjoyed against those less memorable, it typically boils down to how much I’ve interacted with local people. Trips where I’ve put myself out there, made mistakes with the language, navigated my explorations through emotive gesticulation and put my faith in local people, have always ended with beautiful consequences.
People are the reason I stopped using guidebooks, why? Because a local person always knows where to go, what to avoid, the correct cost and how best to do it. I’ve cancelled solid travel plans just by having a friendly local suggest an alternative.
Let’s face it, and this is me being totally honest, how many times when we travel do we ‘scratch below the surface’ of the country, and how many times do we follow the same path as the herds who have travelled before? There is nothing wrong with sticking to the worn travel route, but a great way to meet new people, try a new food or hear some great local music is through a recommendation from someone who actually knows the area.
I love music, it’s a real passion of mine, especially live music. Here is an experience of a local adding a distinct flavour to my trip in Madagascar which the main tourist drag didn’t deliver. At the time this was playing, I was by the sea, in the warm evening air, and with one of my favourite travelling amigas. Shortly after this song was played I bought the album and still listen to it.
Throughout my time leading tours in China, Egypt, Jordan and Japan it was local people that really enhanced the experience for me. Sure I was meeting new foreign travellers every few weeks and it was an altogether wonderful experience, but getting to know the locals was a way for me to scratch below the surface, discover unique pockets of the cities and practice the language.
Local people are a huge part of how I travel, but I always keep in mind that it’s a two way street. I’m seeking something new and looking for friendly faces to show me the way, and locals are happy to meet friendly foreigners who show them the same respect they offer back. I’m a firm believer that travellers represent their home countries and ‘foreigners’ as a whole, so we should act accordingly.
I’m going to leave you with a collection of people pictures. We live in such a diverse world and I’m thankful for that every single day. It is after all, the reason why so many of us show the incurable symptoms of wanderlust fever!
Happy travelling folks