The World Travel Market London is currently taking place in London spread over three days. The focus is networking as well as discovering the latest industry opinion and trends. One focus is sustainability in travel. Another term would be local travel. But what is local travel? It is a term now frequently used and found within the travel industry. It is also wide open to interpretation. For some it means living like a local but is that ever possible as a visitor when you’re not actually a local? When you don’t have the same stresses or worries and are not affected by the same local issues?
But, local travel in my mind can mean something slightly different. It can also mean appreciating where you are on a more personal level. So here’s my listof hints, tips and suggestions for getting just that little bit more out of your experience.
Get to know the destination prior to your arrival
Get to know the destination prior to your arrival. I think its important to read up on the destination and introduce yourself to its culture, traditions, religion and history. Fiction, travelogue or non-fiction – there’s a book out there for everyone. However, for the non-readers there is always music or a film or documentary to watch.
Do not look for paninis, pizzas or pasta
Do not look for paninis, pizzas or pasta. Try somewhere local. It will be cheap so if you don’t like it then you can move on to the paninis, pizzas or pasta. OK, so Mongolia is more famous for people’s negative reaction towards the local cuisine, but try to put it into context. Why do they eat what they eat?
Use public transport
It allows you to be part of the local community for a brief while and you’ll see the area from a more local perspective. True, in Mongolia a bus journey can mean 48 hours plus on challenging roads so you may prefer to just hop on the bus in the capital city Ulaanbaatar.
Risk a little embarrassment and try a few words of the local language
My drivers still laugh about when I asked for a kilo bag of rain instead of a kilo bag of rice. No, you don’t need to be proficient but even the ensuing laughter helps towards breaking the language barrier. True, Mongolian is not the easiest of languages to master. As a warning, the travel writer Tim Severin did describe the Mongolian language as being like:
‘two cats coughing and spitting at each other until one finally throws up ‘
Good luck! Anyway, moving on…
Try to understand a little of the local culture and customs
Try to understand why they do what they do – it will help to create a more meaningful experience.
Use the local or family-run accommodation
Yes, the Shangri-La will (probably) have a double memory foam mattress but is that really how you want to experience Mongolia? By choosing a more local accommodation option you’ll help the local economy, and get a more intimate relationship with the destination and a better understanding of the way of life. And yes, it is possible to do without Wi-Fi and a power shower.
Slow down and look
Don’t treat any walk as an exercise regime – that’s best left for the gym when you get home. Instead, slow down and observe daily life. Sit in a park (hard in Mongolia admittedly with a lack of parks but swap the park for a community square). Slow your thoughts down and just observe.