We asked Lynn Villadolid and Stephanie Haynes of Lifestyle Capital Villas for their top tips on truly immersing yourself in new cultures and making the most of your trip abroad.
Holidays come and go much quicker than they used to. Travel junkies are quick to jump on a plane, fly to a new destination and call it an adventure. But more and more travellers are starting to realise that the real adventure happens when we stop being tourists. If we let it, travel can change us; it all depends on how much you let yourself let go and stretch your boundaries.
It may seem daunting at first, but truly experiencing a new place doesn’t necessarily mean stepping completely out of your comfort zone. Here are some easy but powerful tips on how to dip your toes in another culture and get the most out of your next experience abroad.
Photo: Road Affair
Nowadays it seems as though we are always in a rush, going from one hot spot to the next, obsessed with ticking sites of our list of things to see. But the whole point of going on a holiday is to take a break from the mad rush and just allow ourselves to go slow. Allow yourself to just sit in a café, watch the people walking by, or even talk to them! Revel in those connections. You will never be in that exact same place with those exact same people again, so take the time to treasure it.
Take a road trip instead of flying. It may take longer but there’s so much to see. For example, explore Australia’s Great Ocean Road where the breathtaking coast is right outside your car windows allowing you to take in the iconic 12 Apostles, surf breaks, rainforests and misty waterfalls, heritage attractions, and so much more.
There is a time and a place for marble bathrooms and chandeliers. Every once in a while it can be good to stay somewhere slightly off the beaten track where guests are treated like family and you can interact with your hosts to understand their way of life and see the country you are visiting through their eyes.
In Cottars Safari Camp, the safari owners treat their guests like family, and so do the local guides and staff. They are so welcoming they even invite you into their villages and let you see their homes and meet their families.
Photo: Cottars Safari Camp
This is a great way to get to know a different culture, customs and services, it’s personal and authentic. And after all if you wake up in a place that imbibes the local culture, then it’s a good start to carrying the local vibe around with you throughout the day.
Traveling alone not only gives you that much needed alone time but is also a surefire way to discover something new about yourself. It’s surprising how much confidence and empowerment travelling alone builds. Meeting people from different backgrounds will open your mind and inspire you in ways you didn’t even realise you needed.
The Indian Ocean may seem like the ultimate go-to destination for romance and honeymoons, but it can also be a place for some indulgent me-time even if it’s the last place you would think of traveling alone to. Like with all destinations, it pays to keep an open mind – One & Only Le Saint Géran will give you a luxurious authentic Mauritian experience that will make you glad you didn’t have to share it with anyone else.
Photo: One & Only Le Saint Géran
EXPLORE LOCAL CRAFTS
When buying little gifts and souvenirs, find the local market and search for local crafts. Unearth what the local community is good at, what they are proud of making and talk to them about it. This is a great way to engage with locals and learn more about them, their lives, their customs and your home or wardrobe will also benefit from something unique as a result!
Couples flock to Bali for the exotic Eastern choice for honeymoons and brave souls travel alone for a rejuvenating “Eat Pray Love” type of escape. The local Bali markets in Ubud are a haven for decorative homeware. Intricate wooden sculptures and woven textiles really reflect traditional Balinese craftmanship. Beyond craftsmen villages and local markets, you won’t be able to miss the streets lined with endless art galleries.
ASK LOCALS FOR THE INSIDE SCOOP
Locals love talking to travelers and from my experience they are the best sources of information. Who doesn’t love to share stories of their homeland with foreigners? Chilling where the locals do will give you a more authentic experience of the local lifestyle and you may even go home with a few new friends.
Once known only to hardcore surfers, Siargao, Philippines, is a small island that has recently been popping up on travel bucketlists. Forbes has even called it Asia’s newest heartthrob resort destination. And beyond its untouched white sand, easily accessible lagoons and unusual rock formations is a global community, many of whom came on holiday and never left. These foreigners-turned-locals make it easy for travellers to feel right at home so if talking to strangers isn’t your thing, reaching out to locals who were once as foreign to a destination as you are is a good first step.
Photo: Dedon Island, Siargao
SWAP THE GYM FOR THE GREAT OUTDOORS
If you are hoping to sneak in a quick run at the gym before another indulgent dinner go for a run outdoors instead. Being outside is a great way to explore, get a sense of the area and feel like a local! It is likely that you will come across a hidden gem which a Google search of ‘must see destinations’ would have missed. If you are not much of a runner try biking around the city instead or hiking around a national park.
Amanoi, Vietnam is set between a national park and marine reserve making it a convenient spot for nature lovers. A hike in Nui Chua National Park will lead to you a breathtaking vast view of the ocean, definitely worth the sweat and the perfect spot to stop and reflect.
LET GO OF YOUR PHONE
A friend of mine says “life is what happens when you put your phone down.” You’ve already traveled far away from your everyday routine, so you might as well go off the grid completely. It’s the biggest shame to be sitting amidst a gorgeous sunset and worry more about getting the perfect shot instead of taking every moment in.
When you finally put that phone down you may have your gorgeous-sunset-bragging-rights, but would you remember what it felt like watching it? Worry less about your next Instagram shot and just be fully present and appreciate the moments as they come.
Photo: Coco Privé, Maldives
Last is the easiest of all – take a day to just roam around. Stop worrying about ticking every must see destination off your list.
Sometimes the best experiences happen when we least expect them. Let go of the list of must do’s and just be spontaneous. As cliché as it may sound, sometimes the best way to explore is by letting yourself get lost.
Lifestyle Capital Villas specialises in creating effortless but meaningful holidays and once in a lifetime experiences. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to hear more. If you enjoyed reading this, you might also like read Positive Luxury’s guide to holiday wanderlust.