As perpetual nomads, with intentional blurry lines between ‘every day life’ and ‘travel’ – we’re always experiencing new places while technically living there too.
But we’re not quite tourists, and we’re not quite locals.
Our lives are often confused for being in perpetual vacation mode, a topic we talked about on camera last week.
Today, I wanted to take that topic in a little bit of a different direction.
And that’s how we strive to live locally
while having our eyes wide open like a tourist.
Traveling Like a Local
Often we hear the phrase ‘Travel Like a Local‘ tossed out amongst our community, in effort to set us nomads apart from vacationing tourists. Heck, we’ve even said it a few times ourselves.
But what does traveling like a local really mean?
In my recollection of being ‘a local’ (granted, it’s been a really long time now), and having hung out with many locals in our travels, we often find:
‘Local’ stuff can have a heavy dose of daily routines & chores. Sure, we need to do our grocery shopping and laundry too, but we’re not all that interested in attending homeowners meetings, doing yard maintenance and sitting in traffic. That’s the part we intentionally left behind when we hit the road.
- Locals can become complacent to what is truly unique and magical about the place they’ve chosen to live. Whether it’s the beauty of the landscape, wildlife spottings or the unique history.
Example: When we were touring Alaska last summer, one of our local hosts chuckled at all of us visitors for being gah-gah over seeing a moose in the wild.
‘Oh, we see those ALL the time.‘
(Of course, I’m the type that still gets excited seeing a squirrel… but I think seeing moose in the wild is pretty darn awesome on most anyone’s scale.)
- When we meet up with locals in a new town, it’s not uncommon for them to drag us off 30-45 minutes across town to experience a favorite restaurant or attraction. Sure, that may be a regular thing for locals to do to escape their daily routine. But for us nomads? Local is what is right around this spot we just arrived to. We’re not always excited for doing more travel once we’re at our destination.
We love eating at locally owned restaurants, as opposed to big national chains. We love supporting local shops, shopping local farmer’s markets and supporting small businesses in general.
We enjoy strolling through the city on foot or bike and just absorbing in the nuances of a city.
We enjoy taking recommendations for things to do and see from those who live in the area based on where they might take their visitors.
We tend to find locals are thrilled to have visitors stop in, because it gives them a chance to see their locale through new eyes.
We serve as an excuse for them to take a little ‘Staycation‘ – practicing being tourists in their own city. Which is important for any local, I think, to keep a fresh perspective on the place they live.
And perhaps that is what nomad’s really mean… ‘Travel Like a Local… on Staycation‘.
But unless we put down roots in a place for the long term, us nomads will NEVER truly be locals in the places we pass through. We come in with wide open eyes, and we leave before establishing routines and growing complacent to what is around us.
Once the grocery store clerk knows our typical buying habits, that’s generally our prompt to exit stage west.
Traveling Like a Tourist
Oh, we totally get why ‘Travel like a Local’ is a distinction nomads like to make. Before we hit the road, we took vacations too.
And even when technically now on vacation, we get mistook for being ‘local’ while only having been in town for a couple hours. We just soak in new places differently with our honed in nomadic skillsets.
Tourists generally have no pretense of being locals. They are truly strangers in a strange land.
No hesitation to whip out the camera and really relish the experience they are having. No shame in being on a group organized tour and oogling over the sites. After all, they planned for, paid for and took the time to be HERE.
There’s a lot us nomads can remember in that – the joy of discovery. The reason we’re out here. That the photos last longer than the experience. And sometimes organized tours save a lot of planning & logistics.
Destination locations go to great efforts to guide tourists to where they want them – to the attractions, the gift shops, the photo op, the restaurants and generally places they can leave their money behind in exchange for experiences.
The places where the tourists stay out of the way of the locals (at least those not working in the tourism industry).
As an example, at every port we got off at on our recent Canadian cruise – we’d typically be greeted by conveniently placed rows of vendors, costumed local performers and plenty of opportunities to take guided tours.
What was reachable on foot, was typically more of the same – shops, after shops, after shops – intermixed with a couple historical buildings.
There’s nothing at all wrong with this, and heck – we enjoyed some of it.
But while our shipmates were doing organized shore excursions – we were exploring on self-guided walking tours, renting cars or exploring by local public transit.
There’s only so many museums, amusement parks, guided tours and tourist traps we can enjoy. And we certainly can’t shop much – since our home is an RV, we don’t have room for souvenirs.
While we may be visiting a location, just like tourists are, our visits are also part of our every day life. We’re not taking time off of work, daily chores and our budgets just to explore our current locale.
Instead, our exploring is done during our ‘off time’ (ie. that time in our stationary lives we used to take a yoga class or go to the movies with friends).
Traveling Like a Nomad
So if we’re not tourists, sticking to the beaten path. And we’re not locals, caught up in every day complacency.
Just how do nomads experience the places we visit?
I think, we get the best of both worlds!
We have the tourist advantage of seeing a place with outsider’s eyes. Everything is new to us (well, maybe not all the identical big box stores).
We’re very aware of the differing styles of food, local dialects, unique history, landscapes, traffic patterns, general friendliness and regional trees, flowers & wildlife.
All the things that make an area what it is. We’re not complacent to it, as the last dozen or so places we recently lived had their own unique vibe.
It would be a shame to not embrace this unique perspective by trying to blend in like a local by mostly ignoring or dismissing these wonderful attributes.
We explore, we visit monuments, we take lots of ‘vacationy’ photos’, pay admission fees and we learn about what is around us.
But unlike a tourist we’re not focused on only touring, it’s not our temporary full time pursuit going from monument to hike to museum.
When we’re in an area, we’re also navigating the city a bit like a local to attend to daily life things – groceries, fixing stuff, doctor’s visits, haircuts, eating out, exercise and spending time with friends & family.
It’s all about balance.
We’re not traveling like tourists or locals.
We travel like… Nomads.