Living like a local: 4 ways to immerse yourself while on holiday

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.

The Eiffel Tower was nice but so was the tripe sausage.

The Eiffel Tower was nice but so was the tripe sausage.

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?

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Don’t make a resolution: do something fun instead

It’s a New Year and for many, a fresh start. You’ve read the articles on how to make effective resolutions and vowed to lose 10kg, be healthier or tidier around the house. But what about making promises to yourself about things you actually want to do? Not what you think you should do but what will make you feel good?

Instead of making resolutions I won’t keep, I’ve decided to give myself permission to do the following things this year.

Write letters

I used to send a lot of letters to my pen-pals. I collected them like stamps with a handful in Australia, in the US and across Europe. I used to include little stickers and photos. I would clumsily translate English into German using a phrase book. I even took advantage of this paper friendship and stayed with my German pen-pals on my first trip overseas at the age of 18. They cooked me schnitzel and I went to college with them, ate ice cream and rode bikes. So, this year I will write more correspondence. I’ll write to my grandparents and relatives overseas, and send more cards to friends.

Make more of my own things

I’ve dabbled in DIY before – making my own granola, yoghurt and soda bread. My partner makes salami, capacola and pancetta, pickles and sauce. This year we want to crack making our own bread. Paying $8 for a dense seedy organic loaf now seems a little extravagant but anything else tastes disappointing so we’ll have to make our own. As well as food items I’d like to grow more in my tiny garden and make cleaning products like washing powder.

Go camping

One of my favourite feelings is waking up with the birds at dawn, pulling on a jumper over my pajamas, crawling outside of my two-man tent and sitting in my chair with a cup of coffee. Whether it’s on a site in a caravan park or roughing it in a national park, I always feel calm and relaxed. So this year I want to go away for a couple of long weekend camping trips to experience this feeling again.

My stack of cookbooks just waiting to be used

My stack of cookbooks just waiting to be used.

Use my recipe books

I have a stack of cookbooks and received two more for Christmas. This year I will actually make some recipes from them rather than just looking at the pretty pictures. My partner and I tend to rotate through the same recipes each week and while there is nothing wrong with that, it is always nice to spice things up a bit with some new menu items.

Do more things alone

As an introvert, I quite enjoy my own company. I’m quite content to read for four hours or go for a long walk. But I also enjoy dining alone and going to the movies solo. I’ve dined sans a partner out of necessity when travelling or I’ve done it because I just fancied sitting in a café for a few hours on a drizzly weekend. And going to the movies alone – especially during the day – seems luxurious. So I will give myself permission to do these things more and maybe even add an exhibition to the mix.

What will you do for yourself this year?

Pack your bags and move to Byron Bay! Maybe…

I don’t think I’ve ever visited a new place and instantly thought ‘Let’s move here and start a new life!”

But that’s exactly how I felt when I went to Byron Bay recently.

The first glimpse of the beach was a big energy-booster and a relaxant at the same time, while the backdrop of hills and lush farms added to its fairy-tale quality.

The decision to move started crystallising when we booked into our Airbnb – nestled in a still-quiet street a few doors down to the Tree House Café and only 15 minutes from Byron town.

A large bowel of macadamias and a cracker only served to increase my affection.

The beach of course is where it’s at in Byron. Sand as far as your eye can see to the left, the Cape Byron Lighthouse to the right.

A lovely place for a daily walk or swim.

A lovely place for a daily walk or swim.

Come Monday morning and the sandy stretches were dotted with people – young, old, unemployed, middle-aged and retirees. Were these people employed? What did they do?

Byron Bay has become synonymous with the entrepreneur life. Want to start a jewellery business? Move to Byron.

It’s easy to see why. I could easily imagine a life getting up in the morning and going for a run on the beach, having a breakfast of mango and macadamias and then heading on over to the study or maybe a collective studio to write.

Then, come afternoon, pop out during the arvo for a swim or a surf and then home for dinner and a drink on the balcony.

There is a feeling in Byron that start ups and freelances are supported. Cafes are full of people having business lunches or tapping away at their laptops.

The Byron and Beyond Networking Group host regular events such as ‘how to use local media to promote your business, and ‘goal setting for success’ or host talks by local success stories like Kieth Byrne of the Byron Bay Cookie Co.

Over the past five years there have been a steady number of businesses in town, hovering around the1500 mark but the unemployment rate is higher than the state average of 5.8%.

While the place has enough cafes to keep people fed and the tourist industry is obviously a steady source of income, the price of living an alternative, free-spirited life now comes at a price.

Even the town of Bangalow has had a surge in real estate prices.

Even the town of Bangalow has had a surge in real estate prices.

Real estate has skyrocketed pushing people further out to the surrounding inland towns such as Bangalow, Federal and Mullumbimby.

And while traffic is bad on a normal day in Byron and the price of parking is astronomical for a small town, Schoolies and New Years would be a whole other level.

So while I was initially ready to pack my bags and embrace yoga on a daily basis, the practicalities of living in Byron did bring me back down to earth.

Oh well…..

What place have you visited recently that you’ve wanted to move to?