6 Things You Should Do Every Time You Travel

I like to consider myself more of a traveller than a vacationer. While I only get away for a couple of small trips a year (which definitely sounds like more of a vacationer), I'm always determined and eager to truly explore a new destination. To soak up the local culture, to see EVERYTHING, to feel like I can honestly check this city off my ever-growing list. 

To achieve this, Matt and I spend so much time walking that I often return home with swollen ankles, the arch of my feet burning and the skin on my heels hardening. But it's all worth it, because it's one trip closer to seeing as much of this planet as possible!

Over the years, I've become quite the planner; when you're only in a city for 3-5 days, you have to plan everything before you leave to make sure you get to see and do and taste all that a city has to offer. As much I rush around trying to see it all, I also try make sure we're always being respectful tourists, enjoying and honouring the differences across cultures. So here's a little list of the things we should all do every time we travel to really call ourselves travellers.

1. Join a walking tour

Most cities offer a variety of tours, including food tours, bar crawls, bus tours, bike tours, ghost tours, etc. Personally I love a walking tour (though I can be swayed by a bus tour if it's a particularly large city). We usually look out for a free walking tour to join on the first day of our trip to get our bearings and learn a bit more about the history of a city before exploring further.

2. Chat with the locals

This is a great way to learn about local culture and traditions, and get some great insider tips on where to eat and what to see that isn't in the guidebooks. Start up a conversation with your waiter, the hotel receptionist, a shop assistant, the tour guide, or even someone sitting next to you on public transport. You'll be surprised how helpful people are willing to be when you're truly interested in their home.

3. Explore off the beaten track

Of course you have to see all the famous landmarks - that's what the city is famous for! But we always pre-book a tourist attraction before we leave, or get there as early in the morning as possible so that we're not wasting time in queues. We can then spend the rest of the trip venturing a little further. Even if you only take a stroll through some of the quieter streets and local neighbourhoods, you will get a better sense of how the locals live and really feel like you've seen your destination.

4. Try local foods

Don't just stick to the foods and drinks you can easily get at home. There's little point flying half way around the world to eat at McDonald's. Head to a quaint little restaurant and try dishes that are unique to that area to get a real taste of the country.

Also, opting for locally sourced ingredients is a great way to ensure you're trip is as green as possible. But! Don't be tempted by local delicacies that involve wild animals, like shark fin or dolphin. With a bit of prior research, you can usually find vegan alternatives to most local dishes. The Happy Cow is a great resource for finding vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurants all over the world.

5. Learn the language

Okay so not the whole language, but learning a few key words and phrases such as "hello" and "thank you" will allow you to communicate a little better with locals - and they'll be grateful you made the effort.

6. Shop local

A souvenir to remember your trip? Instead of buying from a big touristy gift shop, try to buy from a local market or independent shop and choose something that's traditional to the place you're visiting. It will often be cheaper, better quality, and you're supporting local businesses and putting your tourist money where it belongs - back into the community.

What other things do you make sure you do when traveling to a new place to keep your trip eco and ensure you're being a respectful tourist? 

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