Seeing is knowing but experiencing is to fathom !!
Experiences are always enriching for body, mind and soul. Sometimes, we visit a place (plain and simple…nothing special about it) but if a pleasant experience is associated with it, the place becomes ‘ever-so-special’ for us. It’s in the nature of our brain to store every new information with a pointer reference. For example, when I think of home, I feel safe, I feel the comfort with which I have grown up as a child, the food prepared by my mom,her waking me up in the morning with love, the care and pampering of my dad and so on. It’s very human to associate people with memories, memories with experiences, experiences with places and so on.
Today, we are in the age of social media; we post more on our social media than actually interacting with real people; have more virtual friends than the real ones. While we are often busy searching for those ‘100 places to see before you die’ kind of stuff, I believe that it’s imperative to actually experience the real essence of a place than to just visit the destinations (because we read it on our favuorite travel blogger’s blog).
Realities often differ from the advertised features. Agree?? Holidaying or visiting new destinations every now and then, does act as a source of refreshment or relaxation . But as a responsible tourist, it’s also important to learn the good and bad aspects of that place; to understand the effects of tourism on that place and accordingly, contribute in an efficient manner . But how can we do it?? How to experience the core of a place in the best possible manner??
Hmmm…(deep thinking mode – ‘ON’).
Let me try to break that for you in 5 simple steps:
1. Talk to the locals, live with them, experience their culture
Simple, safe and often repeated solution. Almost everyone writes about it but does it work all the time? Is it enough to understand the culture of that entire town, city or region?
I say “NO”. Nothing is a sure shot way here to ensure the best experience but this is a ‘tried and tested’, ‘often-successful’ way .
It may work for few though, but remember that every person, every family is different. One person, family or community cannot speak for the entire town, city or country. Everyone – a tourist or native, live their lives differently; have different point of views; face different situations and have seen or been in different circumstances. The circumstances shape up their respective thoughts so, one person cannot symbolize or cannot speak for a whole country or community.
However, living with a local is still a very enriching experience as it gives you a very closer look to at least one family or one person residing in the place where you are visiting. So, trying this thing can be very fulfilling in many ways. Staying with the local people can give you more information about that destination, fill your curious minds with local myths and stories; you may also get insider tips for some special hidden places; tips of how, where and when to deal with scams or where to go and where not to, etc..
2. Visit a destination during a festival
This is really a perfect way to experience the essence of a place. The entire town/city becomes livelier. The fun, frolic and joy in the atmosphere is unmissable. Everyone is happy, enjoying the moment. Be it the celebration of a historical event or mythological belief or crop harvesting or the beginning of a season or a music festival, it’s equally enjoyable. One can witness the spirit of a place, its people and their beliefs. There is so much to do in a festival apart from enjoying the food and celebrations symbolizing the respective festival. People are friendlier than normal, more jovial than normal, hope and love spread everywhere like the smell of blossoming flowers. Such events are the best times to experience the true spirit of a place.
But we are, after all, human; so, it would be very impractical to overlook the thorny side of things and focus only on the roses. Many such festivals also turn chaotic, lead to stampede or other unpleasant experiences. It’s best to be careful, do your research and try to make the best out of your stay at any place, no matter where you go and for how many days you go. Prepare for the worst but hope for the best. Visiting a place during festival time might completely change your perspective towards a destination (good or bad – depending on your experiences).
3. Make sure to visit at least one local eating place
This point here is clichéd; however, I would still like to mention this. Everywhere around the world and since ages, people have socialized over food. In fact early men started to form communities so as to group up for hunting and gathering more food for the whole community. In short, socializing began, because of food and for getting more food – ‘Food for all’. So, if you really want to experience a place, experience the food 🙂 and try the food, not in some high-rated, Michelin-starred restaurant (though that might be both a treat for your palette and shock for your wallet 😉 ) but in a cozy eating joint with authentic local food.
Now, the term ‘Authentic’ in itself is quite contradictory but what I mean here is that at least try to experience the local way of eating. I agree that not everyone can try all kinds of foods; I myself can’t. I can only eat few varieties of meat or fish or even veggies so, I completely understand if you don’t want to try the local delicacy but I believe that you would always find something – a variety of bread or dessert or snack to suit your taste. So, just try it out and remember, you are not only trying out new flavors or tastes but you are evolving as a person, experiencing new tastes. These food experiences also enable you to socialize with the locals. By eating their food, you are respecting their traditions and trust me; they respect you back for this. It’s always a ‘healthy exchange!!
4. Meet with an expat living there to hear their experiences
This may sound crazy but it actually works. Expats are the people who don’t belong to that place (city or country) but are living there for work. They can give you a very good idea about that place, an outsider’s point of view. You can get a brief idea about their different experiences when talking to them like, how was it, when they first moved in, cultural shocks, the difference in work environment from that in their home country, the difference in the ‘in-house’ rules or the ‘apartment-living’ rules, social differences (way of meeting and greeting), etc..
According to me, when you talk to an expat, you are benefited with two things: first, you get an outsider review of that place; second, you also get a brief idea about the culture in the expat’s city/country (if you are not from the very same place as that of the expat). So, it’s a ‘win-win’ for both you and your expat friend. How?? Because you both make new friends, get a different perspective, learn about different situations, share each other’s experience and most importantly, learn to appreciate your life and to be more flexible than before.
5. Start early in the morning
This is my favorite way of experiencing a new place. Waking up early to experience the sunrise, the golden sunshine; everything looks more beautiful at the dawn. It doesn’t matter if you are visiting a big city, a top tourist destination, a small village, forest or the mountains; everything looks magical during the sunrise. I agree that sunset is also a nice time of the day to experience the beauty of a place but I prefer sunrise. Moreover, waking up early provides you a lot of time in the day to do the exploring. So, if you want to experience a place in its purest form, wake up early, breath in the fresh morning air and do some yoga or go for a walk. I agree that this experience would demand a bit of ‘sleep sacrificing’ but would reward you with that awesome feeling of accomplishment. Try it out!!
Hope you experience your next holiday destination with high spirits and to the fullest, with these tips. After all, it’s all about creating memories, it’s all about experiencing… Isn’t it?
Have some more points or personal experiences to add?? Feel free to add them below in the comments. Just jetsetgo and we can all help each other 🙂 🙂
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