People to People Brings Travelers into Local’s Homes
Let’s talk about something that always seems to divide the room right down the center: The idea of traveling to a foreign country and staying at an all-inclusive resort.
Lots of travel writers get sand in their shorts over this idea – they think we should immerse ourselves in the country’s culture rather than sip daiquiris by the pool for five days. That said, a large number of tourists who visit the Caribbean choose to make their homes at said resorts.
I’ve always understood the appeal of both sides of the coin – some people are explorers and others are vacationers (many of us like a bit of both). Some people are comfortable with new horizons and feel enriched by the new experiences, and some only have a week’s worth of vacation per year and want to know what they’re going to get for their money – they don’t want any surprises.
And it’s all good – that’s why they make chocolate and vanilla, that’s why we have options.
Here’s one for both explorers and vacationers I discovered in Nassau, a destination frequented by many of the latter: People-to-People.
It’s run by the Ministry of Tourism and it’s a local version of the worldwide People to People organization that was set up by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956.
Eisenhower believed deeply that “direct interaction between ordinary citizens around the world can promote cultural understanding and world peace,” and I tend to agree with him.
A free service to all visitors that come to the island, travelers are given the opportunity to spend an afternoon or evening with a local family. The Tourism Board can set you up with a lunch, dinner, or simply an afternoon walk, but we chose to dive right in and accept their offer to host us for dinner.
I mean, they offered – the program is all volunteer based (which is why it’s free to visitors) – and they welcomed us into their home with open arms: A fridge full of beer, red and white wine, pots on the stove, stories to share.
Steve and his wife (Terry) had prepared a delicious meal for us: Grouper, peas and rice, salad, coleslaw, Guava Duff and most notably, Pumpkin Conch Soup and Jonny Cake (standing applause, Terry, this was honestly the best/most authentic dish I ate in Nassau). We sat around and hung out like old friends, encouraged us to help ourselves to whatever we wanted.
Later, I washed dishes with their children and asked them about their lives, and the oldest said she wants to be a lawyer. She said she likes to go to the beach, catch movies with friends.
Her little sister plays the piano, and I annoyed them constantly with questions about where the glasses and dishes went in the cabinets.
Then after dinner, Steve gave me Bahamian dialect advice in between sips of beer. He shared that his brother was making the cowbells for the then upcoming Junkanoo Festival in December. He told me stories of attending the World Cup in different countries (he has been to several of them), and I explained that I’ve been traveling quite a bit the past few months.
The cab was waiting several minutes for us to depart at the end of the night – a group of us must have stood chatting in the doorway for close to ten minutes. I felt so inspired about what I had experienced, the conversations I had been a part of.
This wasn’t a friendly waiter or an obligated staff member – I was talking to a real family who was genuinely interested in connecting with someone from another country. As many questions as I had for them, just as many came my way.
This might be a nice compromise for vacationers and explorers – an opportunity to get out of the resort and receive a genuine local experience without sacrificing a level of comfort. Requesting the tourism board to arrange something for you allows you to explore the day-to-day lives of the locals without worry.
After, you might just be inspired – perhaps the next trip you will attempt to make friends on your own.
For more information, visit the The Islands of the Bahamas website.
Will McGough is a regular contributor and a blogger for GoNOMAD. Read his blog, Wake and Wander.
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