During a recent trip to Europe, my partner and I played the game of ‘could I live here?’ While the thinking was a pie in the sky, we were asking it while doing things that the locals were doing.
Although we saw the sights, paid too much, lined up, and took selfies, we also took our cues from residents and took time to embrace the every day.
Here are some ways you can combine your ‘to do’ list with a bit of cultural immersion to get a feel for what really living there would be like.
Stay in an Airbnb
Staying in an Airbnb gives you the opportunity to discover neighbourhoods you would never visit if you confined yourself to a hotel in the city centre. Your host will provide you with great local tips on where to eat, shop and when to visit the sights. We would never have discovered a deliciously traditional French restaurant – and tripe sausage – if it wasn’t for our lovely host.
Take public transport or use your own two feet
There is no better way to understand the occupants of a new place than by people watching. Take the train to see what commuting would be like – just be reminded that trying to backpack your way through London on the underground at peak hour may elicit a few death stares if your Oyster card declines. Taking a bus gives you a different perspective, while walking is the best way to discover hidden alley ways, cute boutiques and street art.
Visit the local shops
Eating out is one of the great pleasures of travelling but you don’t have to do it for every meal. Buying groceries at the local supermarket can be a fun and educational experience, not to mention a much cheaper option. Visiting a fresh food market is a must if you can. Pick up some supplies to take on a picnic or use it to create your breakfasts in the morning. One of our best finds in Florence was the large undercover market with stalls filled to the brim with cheese, cured meats, biscotti, and juicy blood oranges – it was a tourist attraction in itself.
Do something you would back home
One of my favourite travel experiences was spending an hour or so at the laundromat in Bedford–Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. It provided the perfect opportunity to just sit and read my book, look out the window and listen to the chatter of locals going about their business. The same feel can be achieved by visiting a local library or bookstore, sitting in a park, going to the cinema, or attending a sports match. Attending a Canadian football league game in Toronto gave us an insight into a sport we didn’t know much about and ample time to people-watch.
Try to live a little bit like a local, and you’ll discover a whole lot more about the place you’re visiting.
How do you ‘live like a local’ while on holiday?