When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
In other words, avoid the tourist traps, leave the resort often, and mingle with the locals. Basically, don’t act like an obnoxious tourist. 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.
Peppered across Mexico, Europe, and other exotic foreign places are gaudy resorts filled to the brim with Americans. I’ve never understood this. Why spend all that time and money traveling to a beautiful country only to fritter away time in a crowded resort pool trying to block out the screams of some kids from Ohio and battling other American tourists for the best table at the tiki bar?
You’re not experiencing anything new. You’re only doing American-like stuff with other Americans while completely disregarding the vibrant foreign culture around you. 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 doing as the Romans do (in other words, following the locals and absorbing their culture), you will…
Create unforgettable experiences.Imagine yourself 25 years from now, pulling up an old photo of yourself sitting by the pool at a resort. You think to yourself, “Was this Cancun? Or Bermuda? Wait, I think it was Italy.”
No matter how often you travel, you’re not going to really remember much if you spend most of your time hanging out at resorts or doing touristy stuff. If you make the most out of each trip and 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.Let’s use Hawaii as an example again. Instead of sticking within the limits of a resort (and occasionally traveling to a nearby town to buy a few souvenirs), rent a motorcycle and ride down to South Point Park, where you’ll get to watch local fishermen work at earning their livelihood at the scenic southernmost point of the United States. Next, ride over to the small town of Papaikou and walk a secluded trail towards Onomea Bay, where you’ll find one of Hawaii’s best-kept secrets: a collection of stunning hidden waterfalls. Once you’re done marveling over the beautiful waterfalls, make your way north on Mamalahoa Highway and join the native Hawaiians for the annual Hamakua Music Festival in the small town of Honokaa.
What a day that would be! 25 years from now, which day would you be more likely to remember: day riding around Hawaii on a motorcycle or a day lounging at some resort?
The locals know where the best deals are. Also, any traveler knows that resorts, lodges, and tourist traps charge outrageous amounts of money for their services. Instead of going to a concierge (who will get a fee every time he sends a tourist to a partner company that overcharges their customers), ask a local for recommendations. A local would be likely to direct you to a business or organization that offers better services for half the price of a concierge-recommended place. Not only that, but you’ll also save a lot of money staying at local inns or bed-and-breakfast places and build rapport with the employees and sometimes the owners.
Not only do the locals know where the best deals are, but they also know where the best restaurants are. Great restaurants are usually tucked away in lesser-known neighborhoods and they usually charge less than the mediocre restaurants you’d find around hotels, airports, and tourist attractions. The best way to spot such great restaurants is to ask a local for recommendations.
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 building 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?
Always remember that safety comes first.
Just because you’re in a new place doesn’t mean you can roam around doing as you please. You need to take into account your own safety and take all the precautions necessary in order to ensure that you’re safe around strangers in unfamiliar areas.
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!