My youngest daughter laughs when I use the living like a local phrase. I'm not sure if she considers dad a little odd, or just easily amused. But, no matter. I want to experience a place for all it is, not just someplace that isn't home. Let me give you a few examples from our recent vacation in the Portland, Oregon area:
1. Betty and I (and Alison when she joined us in the final week) made extensive use of the light rail and trolley system. To be able to drive a few minutes to a nearby station in Hillsboro, buy our all day passes, step on the train and be in downtown Portland 35 minutes later was so much better than driving. It allowed me to actually look at the sights around me instead of being stuck behind the wheel of the rental car.
Then, we'd find the closest trolley stop and ride to where we wanted to be. Off we'd jump, do our exploring and eating, get back on the trolley and figure out where to get off to meet the light rail train that would return us to our car.
By the end of the second day I was comfortable using my phone to determine the arrival time of the next trolley or train. Besides being fun, I really enjoyed the process of using local transportation options to explore the area.
2. We had to pick up Alison at the Portland airport when she flew up from Phoenix to join us. By then I knew about Portland's bad traffic tie-ups and areas that were always a mess. So, by looking at a map I figured a local's way to and from the airport. Rather than join everyone else on the Interstate system, I used surface streets that avoided all the traffic and hassle. A Victory! I was living like a local, not just a confused tourist in a rental car.
3. A blogging friend (bless you, Tamara) had recommend that I buy Groupon coupons for some of our meals before coming to Portland. I did purchase two dinners for restaurants in the downtown area this way, both of which turned out to be great choices. By the time we decided to use them, I wanted to find each one without depending on the GPS system. I had learned enough about Portland's grid system that I was pretty confident we'd make it. Except for a few one way streets not going the way I wanted to, I navigated to both restaurants without any serious issues. Success! The city was becoming comfortable to me.
There are several more examples from this trip but my goal of a shorter post means I'll skip the details. However, the point should be clear: the more comfortable I became in the place I was spending time, the more I enjoyed being there. I made the effort to learn enough about where I was to be able to relax.
When I'm in Hawaii by the third day I am shuffling along in my flip-flops, smiling at everyone, ignoring my watch and looking for local plates. When I am on an RV trip I say hi to everyone, talk about their dogs, and offer to share a casserole. When we visited Italy it meant getting used to late-opening restaurants and enjoying it. When in Portland I try local beers, drink too much coffee, get lost in Powell books, and take public transportation.
My advice: slip into the lifestyle and pace of wherever you find yourself. It is so much more enjoyable if you live like a local, even if you aren't.