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!

5 Essential Self-Care Travel Tips

If you’ve been following me for some time or have scrolled to the very (very)  bottom of my feed, you'll know how much I love to travel. I don't think there has been a period of being stagnant for more than three months. Family and friends always ask where we are heading next, and have become a "go-to" for travel advice. 

5 Essential Self-Care Travel Tips

Traveling is a lot of fun. And, even the stresses of plane travel are something I look forward to; It's all part of the process and the journey. Yes, it’s fun, and it’s purpose-driven, and yes, it can sometimes feel quite glamorous; but, jet-setting (and, I use this term loosely... as in air travel) whether it be for work or pleasure, comes with its own set of complexities.

The main issue is self-care. It’s easy to run yourself ragged, hopping from one place to another, sometimes feeling homesick, and other times just feeling sick -- tummy, head cold, you name it. Here are five tips I have picked up along the way that keep me feeling 100% when I’m traveling.

Wipe It Down

I'm a germophobe, and more so when I get on a plane. I always use some quick hand wipes or a travel-sized sanitizer spray to wipe it all down: that includes the little TV, the service tray, and all the buttons around your seat. Wipe it down...all of it! Let's not get started on the bathroom.

Lubricate Your Nose

To avoid getting sick on planes, place a dab of Neosporin on a cotton swab and coat the inside of your nostrils. Not only does it create a barrier for germs, but it also lubricates the skin in the nose. That’s important because when the skin cracks, germs can come in, so the coating of the Neosporin doubly protects you. Personally, I travel with a tube of Waxeline. 

Stay Hydrated

It may seem obvious, but staying hydrated is one of the easiest, simplest ways to stay regular and well when on the road or in the air. Sometimes it can be easy to forget to hydrate while on the go, so find a water bottle you like and make sure that it fits into your carry on. Most airports have water bottle filling stations past security, so fill up!

Pack Probiotics

Go pro, and I'm not talking about the little video camera. This is a tip I got from my mom. Always travel with a high strain probiotic, and hydrate like you’re dying of thirst – because even if you’re not, for your body – the thirst is real. This dynamic duo of probiotics and water will keep your gut health in check and honestly stave off jet lag if you’re traveling to another time zone or another country. And, if you didn't pack a probiotic, don't worry. Buy local plain yogurt, and this will help do the trick.

Let Your Tummy Keep Time

If you eat on the schedule of wherever you’ve landed, you won’t feel jet lagged. It’s your stomach that tells your brain when it’s feeling wonky. By simply eating a meal at the time the locals are when you land, you trick your brain a bit and stay much more on track, and much less cranky. Along with this is getting some sunshine as soon as you land (given that you arrive during the day.) It might be tempting to nap, but keeping awake until dark combined with eating at the local time will help jet leg drastically!

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.