You want local travel experiences. You start researching destinations. You discover that so many cities are considered overrun with tourists. You hear about countries that appear to be so touristy, others say they’re not worth visiting.
It’s true. There’s a lot of destinations in the world that have a lot of tourists/travelers in them. So, if you prefer to stay away from mass tourism, it can seem like a real challenge to find an ideal destination to visit.
But…think about this.
In my 19 years of constant travel, it does seem to me that 90% of travelers (that’s not based on any real data!) visit the same places, eat at the same restaurants along the same main squares, walk down the same streets and wander in and out of the same shops, all over the world.
There’s nothing wrong with visiting the main sights or the most interesting neighborhoods as well, or eating that famous pastry from the famous bakery.
But if you want local travel experiences, all you really need to do is follow one very simple rule.
The 5-Minute Rule for Local Travel Experiences
Here’s how it works:
- Step 1: Turn around.
- Step 2: Walk away.
Yes, that easy. That’s the rule.
We’ve been here in Lisbon for a few weeks now and this city is absolutely jam-packed with tourists and travelers and cruise ship passengers and foreigners of all kinds. There are lines and crowds in all of the ‘famous’ areas and there are a lot of ‘famous’ areas!
If you aren’t into visiting touristy destinations, you might feel the urge to flee from this city within a few minutes of your arrival.
At the same time…
Despite Lisbon, and Portugal in general, being one of the ‘tourism hotspots’ in Europe right now, our experience here has not been a touristy one.
Far from it, actually.
Again, all we do is turn around and walk away.
When we look for a place to eat, we look in neighborhoods that are a 5 minute walk away from the areas that are full of tourist-oriented restaurants.
When we want to have a coffee, we turn from the famous square, lined with cafes serving up low quality food and drinks to a never-ending stream of travelers…and we walk away. We head down a random street and climb up some random stairs.
When we want to explore the city, we head to the areas that are most popular with tourists and then we pick a direction and start walking away. Sometimes we’ll later head back and do it again in a different direction.
The Wonderful Results
Using this easy method, we end up with the local travel experiences that we prefer.
We end up at cozy local restaurants down quiet lanes, with doors that are not plastered with TripAdvisor stickers. There will be no English spoken, the customers will all be Portuguese and the prices will be a fraction of the tourist restaurants nearby…and the food usually much better!
We also end up at cool places few people seem to know about, such as a remarkable bookbinder, a local hangout with an incredible view that quickly became our favorite cafe in the city and an attractive, yet non-touristy, beach.
We get a glimpse of real Lisbon life, in quaint parks full of locals hanging out, in hidden squares abuzz with everyday activity, in shops where the fruit and pastries are of the highest quality and the cheapest prices and in beautiful neighborhoods that don’t have well-known attractions to draw a crowd.
It’s authentic. It’s extremely rewarding. And it’s incredibly fun.
The real beauty of it all is that we don’t have to head towards the far outskirts of the city or to a small village an hour away from Lisbon (which would be wonderful too!) to make this happen. All we do is walk, for 5 minutes, away from the crowds of tourists.
It’s that simple. Local travel experiences can always be had…at any time, in every destination around the world.
It’s just up to us to have them.
What’s your experience in touristy destinations? How do you get away from the crowds?