I have been traveling regularly for a decade now. And in the last one year, I have traveled continuously. ‘How do you manage to get such odd experiences?’ is a question I am asked quite often.
I would somehow like you to believe that it is the special elite forces training I received that allows me to get such experiences but the fact is, I have no special talent. I am just like any other traveler. The 'odd' thing I do, is that, I work hard to get out of the tourist trail and live with the locals.
Here are three strong reasons why you should try living with the locals in your next trip.
Most restaurants are famous for a good reason, and that is, good food. This is why some of them get frequented by tourists. But ask any local, he/she will tell you that the famous tourist restaurant is far from his/her personal favourite. Those are the hidden places I seek. And there is but one best guide to this culinary exploration - a local.
In Kochi (Kerala, India) during my 25Days25Trains project, Hari Menon took me Hotel Sehiyon on CP Ummer Road. I had no chance in hell of finding this place on my own. They specialise in seafood in this hole in the wall restaurant. I had some of the best prawns and fish dishes of my life here. I also tried an odd delicacy here, fried fish eggs.
At less than 500 INR (8USD), two of us had a full meal. This is just one of the many gourmet discoveries I made, thanks to the locals.
Another reason why I love living with the locals (and hosting travelers too) is the raw and interesting experiences that you can get access to. For some reason, following a tour group does not give me the satisfaction of getting a real insight into the destination.
Living with locals has helped me have experiences which are funny, weird or plain interesting.
Recently, I got invited to a Pichação (pronounced as pixa-sao) party in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Pichação is a form of street art where painters use cryptic signatures on walls and compete for the highest spots. It is an underground community because this form of graffiti is classified as vandalism in Brazil. But thanks to a local host, I got a brief insight into pichadores and how they celebrate it.
You might think this picture was clicked at a Bollywood party. But, it wasn’t. This was a wedding in Sri Lanka. Most people in the island nation are Buddhists. It might give you the impression that Sri Lankan weddings must be a quiet affair. It is anything but that.
Most Sri Lankan weddings are a mix of western and Indian celebrations. There is a lot of alcohol, and, bollywood dancers and photographers are a must.
And how did I manage to get myself invited? Yes, you guessed it right. I was living with a local.
Maybe I am lucky. But my local hosts have always treated me like family (this picture is of my local host family in Rio De Janeiro). From helping me in renewing my Brazilian visa to saving me when I was mugged and stranded in Assam, India, locals have always come to my rescue.
Trips can be challenging at times, but having a local family as your host is the best support system a traveler can have. I hope these reasons convince you to live with the locals the next time you travel (if you aren’t doing it already).
But, how to live with a local? Well, its simpler than you think.
Well there's Airbnb, arguably the best and most efficient way to start living with locals. I have been using it for years.
I both travel and host with this website's help. Just create a profile through my link on Airbnb and receive free credit for your next trip. Airbnb is also my partner on ‘The 12 Project’ and offers me free accommodation in some destinations.
Then there's Couchsurfing. It is the original hospitality exchange community and is a great resource if you have been using it because you get to stay for free.
But it has its challenges. Sometimes, I sent multiple requests without soliciting a response. I use couchsurfing for meeting people – they have great events organised by local members of the community.
If any of you travellers are interested, I am giving away two Airbnb vouchers worth 75 USD (INR 5036 as of 11th Dec 2015), each through the #LiveLocal contest. Here's all you have to do:
1. Create a profile using this Airbnb link
3. Tell us why you like/would like to #LiveLocal on either on The Odd Traveller facebook page or tweet to @theoddtraveller using #LiveLocal
I am giving away one voucher through Facebook and Twitter each. Participate in both to have a better chance in winning the voucher.
Just remember though, the final deadline for entries is 11:59 PM Wednesday, 16th December 2015 (IST). Also, the final decision rests with The Odd Traveller team. The names of the winners will be announced by 11:59 PM (IST), Friday, 18th December 2015.
About the author
Sachin Bhandary, The Odd Traveller, has taken a year off and made traveling his mission. He believes that traveling is a fantastic learning opportunity and is out to prove as much by setting examples! Reach out to him through his blog, Facebook and Twitter.