I knew we were compatible immediately when on our first vacation she trusted me to let us wander the streets of unfamiliar territory a little bit and flat out said she didn’t want to do anything “touristy” but rather go off the beaten path a little bit.
Being an anthropologist at heart and in practice, my take on vacations range from complete disconnection to complete immersion. If I’m not on a beach for the sake of being on a beach to do absolutely nothing, I tend to want to explore my destinations a bit more formally informally. 😉
I thought I would remind myself as I go into my vacation planning mode of some of the top-of-mind tips I can think of to really get to know a place when you are on vacation, such as:
- visiting a local grocer or street market
- visit a local history museum / industry museum
- dining at the “mom and pop” restaurants (not chains or as a break from high end dining)
- hang with a local: if you can find a friend of a friend to spend a day or an evening with you taking you to local hangouts
- read the local paper
- watch TV: when you are winding down flip on the tube and see what is going on in the news or with Pop culture programming
- go to a concert / local music venue
- hang out at the park or another public space and have a picnic / observe the locals
- talk to strangers: belly up to the bar or sit down on a bench next to someone and start talking: you never know what you will find or where you will end up
- try to speak the language: locals warm up when you at least make an effort
- let the wait staff / chef order for you: ask the what their favorite dishes are and engage them in conversation about the food they grew up on
- Pay attention to the street art: what is on the walls and on the ground that will tell you about the vibe of the city / place you are in?
These are just some ideas of how to observe an anthropological vacation. Chances are you do some of these things already, but the more you can do to practice the urgent art of noticing and attempt to integrate yourself into the local culture through language and experiences and food, the richer your experience you will be. And chances are you will come home having not just had a great time but also having learned a few things about the world and connect yourself to it in a different way.