September 20, 2013

Living Like a Local


Confession time: When I am on vacation I get excited when I can "live like a local." What does that mean? It is the ability to slip into an attitude where I am acting less like a tourist and more like someone who lives there. Obviously, I am a visitor, gone in a few days or weeks. But, I really look for ways to fit in. Do I still get lost make typical tourist blunders? Sure. But usually there is a moment when I feel at home.

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.

18 comments:

  1. It will be interesting to see how you slide into California after Oregon! Living like a local is a neat idea; I realize I often try to do that automatically, but didn't realize I was doing it. The other side to that is when I travel overseas (although not many trips) I enjoy going where folks speak Spanish or English, because I speak those two languages. That is part of the same "blending in" idea. It is part of my comfort zone. Now that I'm aware of that, maybe I should stretch that comfort zone!

    pam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When Betty and I go to Europe we like to travel alone rather than as part of a large group of (obvious) tourists. That allows us to set a pace for the day that more closely matches that of the people who live where we are. It also allows us to interact with people on a one-to-one basis, something a large tour group doesn't.

      RV parks usually contain very friendly and open people. It will be fun.

      Delete
  2. Hi Bob. Good advice to live like a local. I am going to Thailand as well as sa few other countries, but my stay in Thailand will be enough to try to live like a local. Or maybe just an expat.

    My ever present camera always gives me away though. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cameras and white sneakers seem to brand us as American tourists!

      Enjoy your time in Thailand. Share some pictures on your blog!

      Delete
  3. The flip side of this is to live like a tourist at home. I learned this when my pen pal of 40 years from England came to visit and I saw my local area through their eyes - the history, the attractions, the rolling river hills and trails. I gained a new appreciation for my "homeland".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting you should say that. The friends we were with in Portland said the same thing while showing us around. They had a new appreciation for their area and took us to places even they had never been. It was fun for all of us.

      Delete
  4. A note of warning to those who might try to "live like a local" in Pittsburgh, PA. There have been visitors who left for the airport intending to use surface streets who have never been heard from again. Other than that, if you visit my city, Bob's advice will enhance your visit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pittsburgh is a fabulous city to explore. It is a lot like Portland with all of the distinct neighborhoods and downtown life centered on the rivers.
      But, I'll take your advice about the airport, Rick, and expect you to pick us up!

      Delete
  5. I'm with you on this, but I also agree with Mona...it's fun to be a tourist in your own city. I live in a very historic city, Philadelphia, and I love walking around chatting with the tourists and soaking up the vibe.
    And Richard...I lived in Pittsburgh, too. You're right!
    b

    ReplyDelete
  6. In my career as a postmaster in a small town, I would have "tourists" come in and ask me advice for what there was to do in the local area that was interesting, historic, scenic or fun. It was flattering that they trusted my advice. But, also, it made you appreciate the beauty and interesting things where you live.
    I love to do the same when we travel. Otherwise, we feel we miss so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your comment, along with others, just spurred a thought for what might be an interesting post: have readers submit a few paragraphs about the two or three things in their hometown they would want any tourist to see or experience.

      That could be lots of fun and force all of us to pay closer attention to what is in our backyard.

      Delete
  7. You definitely went native in Portland. You can get around Portland better than I can after living here for 20+ years!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When we come back next summer I expect to get hired by a local guide service!

      Delete
    2. Glad to hear you are coming back next summer!

      Delete
    3. We are already discussing a 10 or 11 week RV trip that puts us in Portland for 3 or 4 weeks sometime from mid-July to mid-August. It is never too early to start making plans!

      Delete
  8. I agree with you wholeheartedly, which is why I like to travel domestically, not internationally, because for one thing, how are ya gonna act like a local if you don't even speak the language? (P. S. Saves a lot on airfare as well!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We did manage to become a little local on our last trip to Italy...not being first in line for restaurants when they opened at 7:30 for dinner and not wearing white sneakers everywhere. Not much, but a start! Domestic travel does make it much easier.

      Delete
  9. Yep. This winter in Tucson I'm going to spend more time away from our 55+ resort, doing stuff in the city. I like the diversity and I like to be useful. That's what I'd do if I lived there all year.

    Home exchanging is good for living like a local. We've done that a number of times.

    Hadn't thought about using my phone to get around. That will be a good one for next month's trip to Iowa and November's trip to the Big Island.

    ReplyDelete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted