Becoming a local when you travel

Me, enjoying the ferry like a local in Sydney Harbour.

A lot of my travels to date have been quick whirlwind trips without staying place in one city for longer than a week, always on the go wanting to see as much as possible. I haven’t done the big RTW (round the world) trip, the longest I have ever been away on one trip is just over 5 weeks. I started traveling when I had a few weeks off here and there between my freelance jobs in film and TV and it always made sense for me to get away when I could instead of saving up for a longer trip and because of this I don’t think I’ve ever really “felt like a local” when traveling.

However on my last trip to Australia, I house sat at a friends place in Sydney while they were away in the US and I feel like I finally got to experience the feeling of a local outside of my own hometown. Even though Sydney is a big city, I enjoyed seeing familiar people every day for a few weeks on end whether it was the same people catching the train, or the guy who was always going in and out of the apartment the same time as me or the local shop owners and construction workers. Also knowing the directions to the grocery store or where to find cheap sushi. Just seeing people like that each day and knowing those things gives you a sense of familiarity and can really make a place feel like home.

Another thing that made me feel like a local while in Sydney was meeting up with friends who were locals and knowing more about the city than them. Granted I’ve been exploring the city and taking every tour possible, however some of my friends have been living there their whole life and I knew of great restaurants to eat at that they hadn’t heard of or knew about the free bus that runs in the city to get you around quick and free that was a surprise to them.

Cheap sushi and a friendly neighbourhood butcher are both fun things to know that make you feel like a local.

When I travel one my favourite experiences is when I know I’ve been able to blend in and people come up to me asking for directions. It’s happened to me many times in Australia, it happened surprisingly a lot of times while in Iceland, in Germany, Paris, Copenhagen and more.

I enjoyed becoming a “local” in Sydney and am now excited to share my Sydney Travel Tips with friends thinking of visiting there soon. If you want to know the best way to get to the zoo, where the best Greek butcher is, which pub has the largest amount of beers on tap and more I now feel confident that I can tell you the answers to these questions in Sydney like a true local.

Do you like slow or quick travel? Do you enjoy feeling like a local when you travel?

The first image was photographed with a Nikon D5100 using a 17-55mm lens.

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    June 19, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    First of all, BIG CONGRATS on your partnership with Ocean Entertainment! I remember your entry to Transat Vacationer and stumbled upon your website again just now. It’s great to see more Canadians making it in the travel blog biz! FYI, I didn’t take my big trip until last year when I turned 40, so don’t worry, you still have lots of time to do the big one! Now, I just want to travel all the time… Lotto 649? Best wishes!

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  • Reply
    Celina Globetrotter
    May 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    For some it’s difficult to look like a local ;) Anyway it’s much better to slow down while traveling.

  • Reply
    Scott - Quirky Travel Guy
    May 16, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    I tend to feel like a local pretty quickly since I seek out dive bars, concert venues and stuff that isn’t necessarily touristy. I’m hoping to score some longer housesitting gigs since I prefer the slow travel method.

    • Reply
      May 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      Ya dive bars are great places for blending in like a local. I would love to try housesitting sometime soon :)

  • Reply
    Adina | Gluten Free Travelette
    May 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    The longest trip I’ve been able to make was about 4 weeks in New Zealand (twice – actually). Having some heavy student loan debt keeps me pretty tied to a job that provides me good steady income. Luckily it also comes with great vacation time – so I use it!
    When I studied abroad in New Zealand in 2005, I stayed put in Auckland for about 2 weeks and each morning I’d go to the same tiny cafe, order my latte, sit down and relax, and walk through the park to Auckland University. It was so wonderful that I almost considered staying! Sometimes I still think about trying to find a job there so I could move there!

    • Reply
      May 26, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      Adina you should definitely go back! Money is what normally holds me back from longer trips too. Bummer. haha

  • Reply
    T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries
    May 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Yep….immersion travel is the only way to go. I’m closing in on the end of my 2nd year here in Cancun, and will be finally moving on in early 2012 for the next destination. Have already done Sofia, Bulgaria and Bogota, Colombia…now it’s time for something new :)

    I mentioned it in a tweet the other day. Backpacking is like skim-reading a book. You’ll never get the full depth of the book if you skim read. But by sitting down and reading each line completely, by immersing yourself in the environment, you get more out of it.

    Backpackers never connect with the local people on the same level as long-term expats…and there’s so many more benefits to long-term stays, ranging from cost of living, investment opportunities, bank accounts, secondary passports, medical tourism/universal healthcare access and so on and so forth.

    If you aren’t adverse to additional reading material and links in comments, you might find my posts on the subject insightful. I specialize in immersion/long-term travel and have a lot of material on the benefits of the lifestyle :)

    • Reply
      May 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      Great analogy with the book, so true.
      thanks for sharing the posts :)

  • Reply
    May 15, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    I’ve never done an rtw either, and my long trip has been two weeks, so I haven’t really had a chance to try and be a local when I travel, but it’d definitely be something I’d want to try.

    • Reply
      May 15, 2012 at 11:35 pm

      It feels pretty nice when it happens. Especially when you have those travel moments when you would much rather be home in your own bed with your friends and family, seeing a some what familiar face helps you feel better for sure :)

  • Reply
    May 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    I totally agree with you. It’s really nice to get to know a place – and its locals – like a local! The only time I’ve really started to do that was in Tanzania when I volunteered in a school. Even then, 4 weeks was all I could get off work, but at least I met the same people each day, developed strong friendships and learned a lot about the area. It’s the best way to travel but, sadly, when you haven’t got the funds to keep you on the other side of the world forever, and the flights over there cost a bomb, it’s too tempting to move on more often and see as much as possible. I’m finally taking the plunge and going off for 7 months in South America and I’m looking forward to the freedom of being able to spend a few weeks in one place if I so wish! I guess it’s all about striking a balance with the funds/resources you have :)

    • Reply
      May 15, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      Wow!! 7 months! That will be awesome :)
      It is definitely about finding that balance between funds and resources and time! Good luck on your travels!

  • Reply
    Cristina (@thetravolution)
    May 15, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I love slow travel. It’s hard to get to know a place in only a couple of days but you definitely don’t have to go months at a time to enjoy slow travel – I think slow travel can also be done in a week or two. On my 1-week travels I made sure to plan everything I wanted to see/do before I left that way it wouldn’t feel rushed. I would do grocery shopping, have picnics and take in the local spots where few tourists go!

    • Reply
      May 15, 2012 at 11:39 pm

      Great tips! The grocery store is definitely a great place to feel like you blend in and are a local even if its just to look at the different foods they have :) Slow travel FTW! haha

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