Be There Now: Engaging While Traveling

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Macchu Picchu, Peru. Climbing mountains and getting the endorphin rush from being there can help you feel more familiar and comfortable while traveling.
Macchu Picchu, Peru. Climbing mountains and getting the endorphin rush from being there can help you feel more familiar and comfortable while traveling.

Engaging with Your Surroundings Wherever in the world you may be

Men in Cabras, Sardinia. Get close to the locals...that's how you learn! Max Hartshorne photo.
Men in Cabras, Sardinia. Get close to the locals…that’s how you learn! Max Hartshorne photo.

By Victoria Evans

Whenever any of us travel to a new destination, we want to get the most out of it as we can. After all, a vacation is something that you have dedicated a decent amount of money towards, and have negotiated hard-earned time off work for.

While relaxing and ticking off the typical tourist attractions off your list is all very well and good, saying that you have directly engaged with the unique environment and surroundings of your holiday location, and took advantage of all it has to offer, is even better.

Whether you plan on staying for one week, or one month, you are sure to be able to make use of at least one of the activities or travel tips discussed below, which will make your holiday that much more satisfying.

Ditch the guidebook

Although travel guides definitely have their worth, it is worth remembering that travel guides are essentially a summary of what another person found interesting or significant about the country you find yourself in.

In order to properly engage with your surroundings, you are going to have to forge your own experiences with what makes your surroundings special to you. Whereas a travel guide writer would have overlooked a picturesque square in the middle of the city, you might find it one of the most enchanting features of your surroundings.

Explore Your Surroundings

Take time to walk around and explore your surroundings without the use of a guidebook, concentrating on things you find interesting or unique about your surroundings. You will be amazed at what you will find.

Climb a mountain

Not for the faint of heart, this activity will not only pump you full with endorphins but will connect you to the surroundings of your location, in a way that not a lot of activities can.
On your climb, you will encounter a vast and varied location of your location’s local flora and fauna, while also giving you unique and astounding views of your location. Some countries even bestow certain mountains in their region with myths and spiritual significance, so in that case, it would be an ideal way to engage with your location’s culture.

Go where the locals are

We have all fallen prey to the dreaded tourist trap. Although, this is largely due to whose advice we follow – usually a travel guides or countless other tourists before us. In order to step out of this otherwise endless cycle, you should start rethinking about whose advice you are going to follow – people who have only spent three weeks in your location, or people who have lived their entire lives there?

Locals who have lived in your new location for a substantial amount of time, know the culture and traditions surrounding the country. Instead of following the usual horde of tourists, try to take a hint from the locals’ by following them to the most authentic restaurants and cafes’, joining them in their national dance, and discovering low-price markets.

Grab a Coffee

Or a hot chocolate, smoothie, milkshake… whatever tickles your fancy. The point is not in what you choose to drink… it’s how you choose to drink it. By that, I mean preferably in a picturesque café setting, where you have a perfect view of what is going on in your surroundings.

Why? Because it is only when we are still and relaxed that we can truly observe and engage with our surroundings. This is one of the best opportunities you will get for people-watching, and watching your location’s unique cultural scene unfold before your eyes. Mount Blanc
One of a Kind Landscape
Think about what attracted you to the particular new location you find yourself in. It would have most likely been a combination of people, culture, and scenery. In terms of the ‘scenery’ aspect, is the location you find yourself in famous for certain landscape features, or the landscape as a whole?

For instance, take the Great Barrier Reef and the Outback in Australia, or the imposing heights of the mountains in Nepal. Whatever it is that makes the surroundings of your location stand out – engage with it. You will find that it is these iconic features that form a large part of the overall magic of your location, and is a source of cultural pride for the locals.

To conclude, I suggest that you put these actions and tips into fulfillment no matter where you find yourself. No matter how dull or mundane you believe your surroundings are, there will always be a little side-street that can transport you back in time, or a new bakery that does the best doughnuts.

Try to always bear in mind that all locations have a certain magic that will be revealed if we only engage with them.

Vickie Evans

Victoria Evans is currently a first-year student studying English and Screen Production at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. She has traveled to Thailand, Australia, and Singapore, and plans to continue her travel adventures in the future.