As you plan your next summer adventure, you’re probably thinking about all the ways to get the most out of your journey. Traveling abroad is a great way to indulge in culinary fare, popular attractions, and spontaneous adventures — but your international trip can be even better by learning about the diversity and beauty of other cultures. People are the heart of culture, so immerse yourself with the locals to learn as much as you can. By rubbing shoulders with new communities, you’ll experience new perspectives and discover that people around the world are incredibly welcoming.
According to a survey by Topdeck Travel of 31,000 18-30 year olds from 134 different countries, millennials want to fully immerse themselves into new cultures and feast on local cuisine — experiencing a new culture was actually listed as a key motivation to travel by 86 percent of those surveyed! While sightseeing and taking guided tours might satisfy some, getting to know the heart and soul of a destination through a local is a genuine cultural experience. Immersing oneself in culture by living as they live, eating as they eat, and playing as they play, is a unique travel experience that teaches more about the world around you. You may find that making lifelong friends across the globe will be the most rewarding part of your trip.
Rather than being the typical tourist, connect with locals and discover how your journey can be even better. Here are some of the ways my best travel stories have began:
- Meeting a local university student to learn about the city’s architecture and museums.
- Renting a moped, getting lost, and exploring charming neighborhoods.
- Meeting a local foodie who guided me to an unforgettable hole-in-the-wall eatery
- Discussing a city’s history and learning its secrets from a new friend who’s family has lived there for generations.
- Being taken along on an unexpected road trip and meeting a whole new group of friends in a brand new city.
As you think about your future travel plans, keep some room in your schedule to make friends and find deeper cultural connections. Don’t be afraid to interact with locals who know your destination best — whether it’s through a bartender at a pub, a friend met online, or a friendly street vendor. Chances are, you will learn many things from each other while building memorable friendships! One day, you’ll show them the same kindness by helping them explore your city.
Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to experience whatever your journey brings — avoid over planning and following strict schedules. Unexpected experiences often make for some of the best memories. Remember, when in Rome…do as the Romans do!
Evan Hung is the Co-Founder and CEO of Zipskee, a social-discovery platform launching July 20, 2016 that connects travelers and locals around the world. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University and has experience in eCommerce, brand strategy, and business development. Zipskee was founded in 2015 on the belief that people make the culture, and connecting with culture is the best part of traveling. The platform can be used to share recommendations, arrange meet ups, and experience the real side of a destination that you can only get when meeting locals — Zipskee’s mission is to make it easy to make friends wherever you go. In Evan’s spare time, he can be found teaching hip-hop dance, playing music, and traveling the world.