Off The Beaten (Tourist) Path

It's time to out the travel guides down, and skip the tourist trap attractions and experience a city like a local.

Off The Beaten (Tourist) Path travel tips

First thing firsts, if you want to experience local culture when traveling, stay away from tourist sites and tourist attractions. We all know that those experiences are far from truly experiencing local culture. Sure, you may want to explore the Colosseum in Rome  or visit Boca in Buenos Aires--but think about it this way...when you visit New York City, do you really get a New York experience by staying in Time Square? Do as the locals do. Travel with as few plans, commitments and reservations as possible. Be your most uninhibited self.

Easiest way to get the local knowledge is from the locals. This is true. Most people are proud of their home and love to tell you about it. One trick is to go to a restaurant early, like so you are the only customer - the staff will talk to you; sit at a bar and talk to the bartender, the always are in the know.

Ask your waiter.

Ask your cab drivers (use discretion here - cab drivers often get kickbacks for nightlife type activities).

Ask people you meet at the bar, or the cafe, or people you run into in the lobby of your hotel.  

Ask random people on the street.  

Rent places via AirBnB or Couchsurfing and ask your host.

As long as you are polite and use good judgment on when you are asking someone (i.e., don't interrupt people) usually people are happy to help and make recommendations.  Almost everyone wants visitors to enjoy their city/country and leave with a good impression.

Don't be intimidated by language barriers. Explore other forms of communications. Bring postcards from home to show and share. Draw pictures. Pantomime.

Be willing to try (nearly) anything. Food is a good example. Local "delicacies" may be intimidating, but you can pretty safely assume they aren't killing anyone.

Lastly, smile! People will respond best if you are approachable and polite. Well, at least this has worked for me!

Share your tips on Instagram!

Local Bloggers and Influencers Are The Secret for Insider Scoop

A wasted afternoon at a tourist-trap attraction?

Yup, been there; it has happened before.

A clear memory of this was in 2009 on a trip South America; getting stuck in the tourist trap that is La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Known as the birthplace of the tango, La Boca, a one-time shipyard has a famous walkway, El Caminito, where tango dancers perform and artists exhibit their work on this colorful street.

The true grittiness of the neighborhood is lost and now it is essentially a tourist trap, full of people touting for business. It is filled with over priced tourist trinkets and t-shirt heaven; faux tango eatery and photo hustlers are in abundance. The only genuine thing left is Boca fútbol stadium 4 blocks north, with a soccer museum charging $12USD entrance. A wasted afternoon indeed.

I wish we would have been warned that this place was the equivalent to San Francisco's Fisherman's Warf or Khao San Road in Bangkok. If only we would have known a blogger... or local for the inside scoop!

Every major city has bloggers obsessed with what's new and great in their backyard, particularly in regard to restaurants. Using Google Blog Search to find bloggers in whatever city you are visiting is a great place to start. You can also use Instagram by searching in the search or through geo tags.

Bloggers and influencers are a phenomenal resource but do not just read what they are writing: Contact them for personal recommendations. The more specific your request — and the more you flatter them for their insight and wit — the more likely you will be to pique their interest and get a response.  

Being from San Francisco, there is no denying that it is a foodie's mecca of must-try places. One might ask: "What's your favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurant within walking distance of the Hotel Vitale on Mission Street? We are looking for a place with a romantic vibe, ideally because it is our anniversary. We'd be so grateful for your help because you obviously know what's going on in San Francisco!" Bloggers love to provide tips and recommendations on their city!

Have I tried this? Yes!  

I've had plenty of people ask me as well via Instagram, and I've shared some of my insights as well.

While in Hoi An, Vietnam, I got in touch with via Twitter with Jodi from Legal Nomads, connected me with two bloggers that were currently in Hoi An--James from Nomadic Notes and Leif, a freelance travel writer and Lonely Planet author.

Gregg and I got the opportunity to have a Cao Lau dinner and share travel stories with James and Leif, followed by a fruit shake along the river. We also did research online as to what online travel bloggers recommend. Many recommended Ms. Chien's Pho Cao Lau Hu Tieu in the Central Market. The steaming bowls of pho were amazing!

By browsing Instagram, you can also get ideas in where to venture next. So, if you are unsure of where to head to, ask local bloggers!

Cover Image Credit: @amybuglione, Instagram; First published June 25, 2013; Updated August 14, 2017.

Make Your Diet Easier to Stick To With These Seven Tips

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I don’t like the word “dieting” in the sense that there are SO many fad “diets” out there that restrict food groups, calories and have ridiculous rules that everyone eventually breaks. In any of my posts when I say the word diet, I am talking about the food you consume on a daily basis, rather than a set of rules stating you can ONLY eat cabbage soup or drink lemon water. I will emphasize that I am not an advocate for fad diets, detoxes, juice fasts, etc. Your diet should be a sustainable lifestyle choice with plenty of balance. This means incorporating foods from all food groups and eating correct portion sizes.

Make your diet easier to stick with starting today by following these simple and effective steps. Revamp your pantry, fill your fridge with the right foods and prepare your snacks in advance. Go grocery shopping on Sunday to stock your home with whole foods. This will make it simple to stick to your healthy eating program. Then get rid of all the temptation foods in your home that could make it hard to stay on track. And just so you do not feel deprived allow yourself one cheat meal per week. This can be the perfect time to dine out!

These are my seven tested and tried true ways to making sticking to your new diet work.

1. MAKEOVER YOUR PANTRY

Give your pantry a makeover and fill it with whole grains, nuts, and foods that nourish your body. This will make snack time even easier and create healthy meals a breeze. Preparation is the key to weight loss success so prepare your pantry pronto, girlfriend!

2. FILL YOUR FRIDGE WITH THE RIGHT FOODS

Get rid of the cheese and processed foods and replace with fruits and veggies. If you fill your fridge with the right foods, you will find it so easy to stick to your diet. Then it will no longer be a diet just a way of life.

3. PREPARE SNACKS IN ADVANCE

Cut up veggies and arrange snacks like hummus in the fridge for your convenience and ease and to stick to the plan. Sometimes the sheer thought of creating snacks and meals can be stressful. If you're prepared when hunger or the 3 pm snack attack strikes, you just have to open up the fridge, grab and go!

4. GET RID OF TEMPTATION FOODS

If you know chips, cookies, and crackers tend to be your weak points, eliminate these temptations from your home. In fact, why are they even there? Make sure you toss all your unhealthy food from your home and start on a clean, healthy slate!

5. PLAN OUT YOUR WEEKLY HEALTHY MENU

So Monday is lettuce wrap night, Tuesday it is turkey tacos on a whole wheat wrap, Wednesday is quinoa and veggies and so on and so on. Create a healthy weekly menu, and this will help you as you go shopping so you can shop for these ingredients while also helping you to stay on the right track to super slim success! Need som ideas? Check out Amanda Meixner aka @meowmeix or Tina Chow aka @fitchickscook for inspo.

6. ALLOW YOURSELF ONE CHEAT MEAL A WEEK

So you have been so good and committed to your healthy eating all week, you go girlfriend! Now it is Saturday night, and you have a dinner invite at your favorite Thai restaurant. Before you decline, remember it is time to allow yourself a cheat meal. (Remeber it's a cheat meal, not a cheat day.) If you are good all week long, it is perfectly okay to celebrate and allow yourself one cheat meal! Savor each bite and enjoy; after all, you earned it!

7. REWARD YOURSELF WITH A NEW FITNESS TOP

If you have been on track all week long, you deserve to celebrate your commitment to change. This is healthy change so celebrate by allowing yourself to shop for a new workout top, shorts or other fitness motivation to inspire you to continue on this path! So with these super-effective tips, follow along. This will make it easier for you to stick with the program to a healthier, leaner and happier you. And you may just rediscover yourself in the process!