When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
This advice was first given hundreds and hundreds of years ago by St. Ambrose, the 4th century’s bishop of Milan. It still rings true to this day. When you’re in an unfamiliar place, it would be wise to act similar to the way the locals act. Not only is it the polite thing to do, it also gives you a chance to really absorb their culture and be exposed to the hidden wonders of their milieu.
The best adventures happen when you venture off the beaten path. For example, if you fly to Hawaii, rent a motorcycle, and ride around the Big Island, you’ll see so much more of the beautiful state than if you had just tucked yourself away in a picture-perfect resort among other mainland vacationers decked out in cheesy floral shirts and coconut-scented sunscreen. A native Hawaiian would never be caught dead hanging out at a resort, so why should you? We have five reasons why you shouldn’t.
By following the locals and adopting their customs, you will…
Experience things very few other tourists have experienced.
If you go where the locals are, you’ll be likely to create an unforgettable experience so unique that no other tourist can say that they’ve done the exact same thing. If, instead of frittering away time at a crowded Hawaiian resort pool trying to block out the screams of some kids from Ohio, you choose to ride your motorcycle on Highway 11 to South Point Park, you’ll get to watch fishermen from nearby towns work at earning their livelihood at the scenic southernmost point of the United States. If you park your motorcycle in the small town of Papaikou and take a secluded trail towards Onomea Bay, you’ll come across a few stunning hidden waterfalls the locals consider one of Hawaii’s best kept secrets. If you make your way north on Mamalahoa Highway, you’ll stumble across the little town of Honokaa, where the native Hawaiians flock to for the annual Hamakua Music Festival and the state’s best rodeos. That sort of day’s trip sure beats shelling out $10 for a martini and battling other tourists for the best table at the tiki bar by the pool, doesn’t it?
By venturing off the beaten path on a vacation, not only will you learn so much about the place and its culture, you’ll also save a lot of money. Any traveler knows that resorts, lodges, and tourist traps charge outrageous amounts of money for their services. A night’s stay at a typical resort or tourist-oriented hotel costs around $200 while a bed-and-breakfast nestled in a quaint local town would only charge about $80 a night. Not only will you save more than 50% by staying at a local inn, you’ll also get to build rapport with the employees and sometimes the owners – something you rarely get to do while staying at a hotel overrun with tourists. Also, the locals know where the best deals are. If you’re in Greece and if you want to go snorkeling, a local may direct you to a small organization that gives private snorkeling lessons at a secluded beach hidden from the prying eyes of tourists for half the cost of a concierge-recommended snorkeling class.
The locals also know where the best restaurants are. Great restaurants are usually tucked away in lesser-known neighborhoods, and you have a small chance of finding them unless you ask the locals for recommendations. Not only do they serve better food, these hidden gems are also usually cheaper than restaurants around hotels, airports, and tourist attractions.
Hear great stories.
Forget museums and pricey walking tours. If you want to hear entertaining firsthand stories about the town or country you’re visiting for the price of a couple of beers, visit a neighborhood watering hole and ask the locals for some of their best stories. You can ease into the conversation by asking about how the town came into being, or why that large castle at the end of the street stands abandoned.
Learn new things.
The best way to learn new things is to broaden your horizons, and what better way to do that than to mingle with people from different cultures? When vacationing, a lot of people tend to stick with their own kind and ignore the culture and customs of the very place they’re in. Immersing yourself in another culture is one of the most rewarding experiences you could ever have. Who says you have to do nothing but relax on a vacation? Use the time to learn a new language, memorize the city’s subway system, or master something the locals do best. You’ll return home with a world of new knowledge and experience. What better gift could a vacation give you?
When in Rome…
Be sure to hop on the train and ride to the quaint district of Prati. That’s where the locals hang out!