Travel Glocal: How to Find Truly Local Experiences while Traveling!

activities with locals in brazil

On a beach in Brazil, after a football match (2017)

As global tourism rises yearly more than before, touristic destinations are increasingly adapting to higher tourism inflows.

While this surely made traveling easier and cheaper in the last two decades, in some way it also made it harder for travelers to meet up with locals and to truly live “authentic” experiences.

In this article, you will find some precious tools to help you plan your upcoming trips by including the obvious touristic must-see hotspots and less-known and less-advertised local experiences, which in our opinion truly makes the magic feeling of traveling come alive!

But before jumping right in, let’s have a look back at the world of travel planning, to explain to you better what we mean! 🙂

 

2000-2025: The Explosion of Travel Information

travel blogs

In the 2000s, due to the advent of the internet in our homes, general information about the world became available to anyone. The first travel blogs, those that now count millions of visitors every year, were born at this time!

Then, with the birth of smartphones and the sprawl of social media in the 2010s, the most once secret destinations of the world started to go increasingly viral and so did the realization for many of us, about how vast the world truly is and how much there’s to see out there.

According to Our World in Data by Oxford University, global international tourism more than DOUBLED in the decades between 2000-and 2020, and after a brief interruption to due covid pandemic, it’s skyrocketing today more than ever…in brief, the digital age made the travel industry boom like never before!

In our current decade, we’ve seen the sprawl of AI tools for smarter traveling, which are adding information on top of the already established social media, TVs, agencies, and travel blogs: if you’re looking for traveling in the world of today, information is at your fingertip and so are countless and countless options of things to see and do!

 

More Information means also more noise!

Having all the information readily available whenever we want it’s awesome on one side: easy, fast, and complete information about what to see, eat, and do…

If we google the best things to do in Warsaw, bang, one second and we have them!

Best museums in Paris? Boom here is the list!

Best sushi restaurant in town? Here is the list!

Etc…etc…etc…

As I often like to say “we live in the future” – nobody just 50 years ago could have ever dreamt the world we are living today!

On the other side though, the widespread availability of information might sometimes also take that “magic something” out of traveling: that feel of discovery, that sense of mystery… the feel of strolling around with no clue what to expect, the surprise of the unknown!

If you’re a passionate traveler, chances are that your social feeds are flooded daily with travel content from everywhere! That’s what I often refer to as “travel noise”: the unending advertisement, publicity, and “inspirational” content of experiences you “absolutely” have to try.

Behind all this “travel noise”, sometimes it’s easy to lose vision of the true reason why many of us fell in love with traveling in the first place.

 

When we travel, we love to “feel” away from home!

Dani in front of meteora, greece

Hiking Meteora, Greece (2023).

I remember when I was at the age of 18.

At that time, after a year-long in Ireland living with a local family, I fell in love with traveling and realized I wanted to put “traveling more” at the top of my lifetime priorities.

I was stunned by the experience I had living with locals, and amazed at how it changed my world view: at that time, I finally had in mind what traveling truly meant to me: challenging my world perspective by experiencing something utterly different from what I am used to!

Experiencing the unexpected and being surprised by what’s coming next it’s what I believe to be the most rewarding experience when traveling.

When we travel, we don’t travel to feel at home (where we know how every pattern, routine, and custom to expect) else we would simply stay home.

We travel to experience, to try different things, and to comprehend different cultures!

That’s why finding truly local experiences plays a major role in experiencing traveling beyond practicing simple “tourism”.

 

The “global” feel is killing all the major tourist hotspots

crowds of people in pamukkale - turkey

Overly-touristy Pamukkale, Turkey (2023)

Sadly, when we happen to visit an internationally famous destination, finding that “authentic” experience is today not at all that simple anymore.

Have you ever strolled around any large city’s shopping area?

The shops are always the same: Zara, H&M, Pull and Bear, Bershka…and again Decathlon, Primark, Pandora, McDonald, Burger King…and again Nike, Adidas, Mediaworld, Carrefour…

Whether you’re visiting the city center of Sofia in Bulgaria, New York in the States, or Rome in Italy, you can be sure you’ll always find those same shops and, a little bit, feel in a familiar place.

City centers are often flooded with souvenir shops, which sell made-in-China magnets, and the same gadgets (with different names) over and over!

Finding local experiences in major tourist hubs, which also locals would partake in, is more often than not a complete mirage!

 

But we can learn to use the Right Tools to our Advantage!

Said that, rejoice to know that finding truly local experiences is still possible everywhere in the world as everywhere there are “locals” still living their everyday life…just perhaps away from overly touristic places.

All we need are the right tools, and knowing how to use them correctly!

In this article, we will go through different tools that can help you plan an awesome trip while striking a balance between touristy must-see hotspots and surprising activities and experiences you could enjoy with true locals! :)

Let’s dive right in!

 

Summary

1. Six Useful Tools to Choose a Destination

2. Tool to tick the boxes: Tripadvisor and Travel Blogs

3. Tools to learn from Other’s Experiences: Social Media

4. Tools to find truly Local Experiences: the world of Mouth and Locals.com 

 

 

1. Six Useful Tools to Choose a Destination

DANI isa in andorra

Andorra (2022)

OK, you decided you want to go on an epic travel: but where to?

Deciding where to go it’s the first step of any epic journey, and the choice is pretty personal as every person is different and can be moved by a thousand and more different motivations.

Hereafter we would like to give you a few tools that might help you choose the right destination for you at the right time 🙂

 

 TOOLS TO CHOOSE YOUR DESTINATION

skyscanner logo

SKYSCANNER

Looking for a destination within your budget?  Skyscanner is the first site we usually consult: it allows us to search for flights worldwide with flexible dates, and find the cheapest routes in the blink of an eye!

skyscanner logo

TRIPADVISOR

Tripadvisor is the world leading website of travel reviews, and it includes lists of top things to see, eat and do in any part of the world. If you’d need to choose only one site to plan your trips, should be this!

skyscanner logo

GOOGLE FLIGHTS.

The most omni-comprehensive and easy-to-use site to search for flights. It is a good starting point to explore routes before checking each airline’s website. The best 2nd option after skyscanner!

lovely planet logo

LONELY PLANET

Lonely planet is a website that gathers some of the best travel guides in the world, with plenty of insider insights and curiosities to discover 🙂

accuweather logo

ACCUWEATHER

When choosing a destination, making sure the weather is right is definitely what you don’t want to overlook! Accuweather is a great site to check for weather, winds, average temperatures and much much more! 🙂

skyscanner logo

INSTAGRAM

Just need to get inspired? Instagram is an unending mine of inspirational travel content, and surely you’ll find there hundreds of places you might want to put on your bucket list.

2. Tools to tick all the boxes:

Don’t miss the elephants in the room!

cappadocia - goreme - turkey - photo by lostontheroute

Air Ballooning in Goreme, Turkey (2023)

Once you have a new destination in mind, it’s always an awesome idea to check out what are the main attractions of the place you’re going to visit: after all, it’s not that because we’re looking for “local” activities, we would miss the obvious main landmark and touristic attractions!

If you go to Paris, of course, you’re going to check out the Louvre or Montmartre!

If you’re going to Mostar, of course, you’re going to check out its iconic bridge!

If you’re looking for the best things to do in London, you cannot miss a visit to Buckingham Palace!

The same goes for Charles Bridge in Prague, the Fuji mountain near Tokyo, the Etosha National Park in Namibia, and so on!

To “tick” the obvious boxes and be sure not to leave anything out, your best bets within the noise, are essentially two: TripAdvisor and travel blogs.

Tripadvisor is useful for finding the most tourist things to do

Tripadvisor is a website that offers plenty of insights into the best things to see, eat, and do in any place on earth!

Thanks to the billions of reviews it accumulated over the years, Tripadvisor can also automatically create experience rankings for any destination (check out for example, the best things to do in Rome and guess which experience might be at n.1 😉 ).

With TripAdvisor, for sure you won’t miss the most touristy points of interest, as those are ranked higher exactly for the reason that they get more reviews by visitors! 🙂

Said that, for the same reason, Tripadvisor won’t highlight more local and intimate experiences and that’s why, if you truly want to experience the soul of a place, TripAdvisor is not the right website: it’s meant more for tourism and sightseeing, less for cultural and local immersion!

How can you then overtake the hurdle and get more personal and precise information about destinations?

Well…I would say the next step is blogs!

 

On travel blogs, you can find precious tips!

Despite what many people might say, blogging is not dead at all, and well-curated blogs are what still today make the backbone of internet information!

Scrolling and skimming through quality travel blogs is a way to upgrade your research of experiences to try in your next destination!

Hereafter, I will leave you a list of blogs I enjoy reading (apart from ours of course! 😉 ):

With fast 20-minute research on the internet between blogs and Tripadvisor, you can easily get an idea of all the most touristic and popular attractions and get some insights on less touristy ones too.

Said that, if you’re looking to spend time with locals and peek into the common real life and culture of the place you plan to visit, you might still be running short.

After all, Tripadvisor highlights only the most touristic places, while travel blogs usually narrate the first-hand experience of bloggers at a given moment in time, but they don’t update often to keep up with time, changes, and upcoming events (as a blogger myself, I say you it would be impossible, also us bloggers have only 24 hours a day in our life! 😉 ).

This is why, we can once more use technology to narrow down our research and move to an even more locally-oriented level!

3. Tools to learn from other’s experience

(with a grain of salt):

Social Medias

world museum liverpool

Staircases of Bom Jesus, Braga, Portugal (2023).

Social media platforms, like YouTube and Instagram, are surely another way of discovering hidden aspects of a destination: you type in the place you want to visit and you might find useful video and photo insights about it.

Sometimes the insights could be very “local”, while most of the time they’re very general info (leave alone the content that people post just to “show off“, overly-edited to look too-good-to-be-truth, which often doesn’t truly provide any useful advice).

Youtube long-form videos can surely provide more insights compared to shorts and Instagram reels but still are to be seen as “shots” in time: once a video is uploaded, it cannot be modified anymore, which makes the video slowly lose relevance over time.

From YT videos and Instagram content, you can get once again a general idea of the best attractions to see, but it’s not that easy to find local events and upcoming experiences organized by locals (unless you have luck by your side and the algorithms bring a cool happening your way!).

Last but not least, there’s also to consider that way too often the content about destinations on social media is not usually posted by locals, but by tourists and visitors (it happens to all of us to post more when we are outside of our routine, but not when at home!).

All in all, social media are a great tool to get inspired, but one that also adds a lot to the “noise” of information we talked about at the beginning of the article.

If you’ve decided upon mingling with locals, discovering “authentic” experiences, joining local non-touristic happenings, and truly feeling that sense of discovery that somehow makes traveling so special, maybe also socials are not the best place to start your planning!

So, by coming to a close…Tripadvisor is generic, blogs are great but just a frame in time, and social content is often overly edited and either posted by tourists or with marketing purposes… where can we find clear and useful information about local experiences and events going on at our upcoming destination?

We have developed two strategies! 😉

 

4. Unlock true traveling by living with locals:

Word of Mouth, and Locals.org 

 

isa from lostontheroute walking in saint tropez

Taking a stroll in Saint-Tropez, France (2022)

Ok, here we are: you saw the main tourist landmarks and hotspots, visited the most recommended attractions by bloggers, and tried the most traditional foods you saw on social media. What now?

Once you see the obvious of a destination, to truly live it and breathe its soul, what’s left to do is to find where locals spend their time.

Yeah, because in tourist places, doesn’t matter whether you’re in front of Rome’s Colosseum, lost in the alleys of Montmartre in Paris, or visiting the Tokyo Tower, chances are that most people you’ll have around are not locals at all, but simply other tourists.

Getting to know where locals hang out and spend their time can be tricky, and information about locals’ events is usually scarce on the internet, which is truly a pity because sometimes those little events are the most memorable.

Think a “sagra de pueblo” in Spain (holy traditional village party), a language night in New York, a spontaneous group hike to a nearby waterfall, or simply a local short-movie festival…

All those minor happenings might often bring more value and memories to our trips than seeing the most famous old church in town (which is also great by the way but perhaps doesn’t have the potential to be that epic!).

So, hereafter are our two strategies to find the most interesting happenings everywhere we travel 🙂

The Good Old Ways: Ask Locals!

Nothing new under the sun, but still one of the best options when you want to dive right into the reality of any place: ask the people who live there!

Locals know better than any travel blogger, better than TripAdvisor, and better than social media, that’s no way around it!

Where can you find locals to ask?

Bars, hostels, reception of the hotels, parks, outside of universities… the options are endless!

While sometimes there might be a language barrier, from my experience I can tell you that most people around the world, no matter which country you’re in, love to be asked about their hometown by foreigners and are very well available to share with you their knowledge and insider tips!

One time, I was spending the night in a hostel in Hualien (Taiwan), and by simply asking for tips from a local girl working at my hostel, I was able to find a hidden local night market cooking snacks! She drove me there and we feasted on different reptiles, sure a weird experience, but also one of the most memorable of that trip!

(The market was not even on the radar of Tripadvisor, just to give you an example :))

If you want to experience local, you need to ask locals!

If you’re too shy to ask directly though, or you simply like to have your itinerary more organized, we still have a second tool we like to use 🙂

 

The new digital way: use Locals.org

locals.org logo

As I often say, “We live in the future”, and it’s unbelievable how everything is at our fingertips: also local experiences!

While still not known by many, locals.org is an exciting website whose main objective is exactly to offer an overview of “local” happenings in various destinations around the world.

What do we mean by “local”? We mean all those events that are not listed on other major travel websites because either too small, not sufficiently touristic, or simply too new or too spontaneous to be caught up by any algorithm. 

By “Local” we intend those events fostered by the local community to promote socialization among people.

As an example, if we try to check up on things to do in New York, we can see fitness boot camps with BBQ, minor artists’ expositions, dance shows and classes, co-working sessions, group hikes to Bull Hill, tennis and golf get-togethers, bowling events, chit chat hangouts and so on… a plethora of activities to enjoy with locals where one could truly immerse in the local culture!

I believe locals.org to be a refreshing platform for curious travelers, which focuses on promoting the connection among real people and not simply listing the most obvious touristy things to do (of which the internet is already full! 😉 ).

Conclusion

eating local food with a local grandpa in granada

Trying local food with a lovely grandpa in Granada, Spain (2023)

And here we come at the end of this article 🙂

So to recap, in this, we saw how informational noise and “too much” travel information might sometimes hinder the travel enjoyment and take out that “magic something” from traveling by directing us mostly toward the overly-touristic hotspots and leaving the authentic experiences with locals in the background.

To avoid being overwhelmed by it, when planning a trip it is thus very important to have clear in mind where to look for information!

From our experience, we would recommend starting always by choosing the destination (use Skyscanner for cheap flights, Lonely Planet, and Blogs to get inspired, and don’t forget to check the weather too on AccuWeather!).

Once chosen, with Tripadvisor, travel blogs, and social media you can get a great overview of all the most popular and touristy things to do!

Once you checked all the boxes though, if you wish to truly immerse in the local culture, and local happenings and get to know real people outside of a commercial-touristic context, our best tip is to either ask for information (don’t be shy, everyone likes to talk about their home-town!) or use the app of Locals.org to find out-of-the-radar adventures and experiences organized by the local community! 🙂

As always, if you liked the article, if you have doubts, or if you would like to share your personal experience, I invite you to write me in the comments below! 😀

  • And you, which platforms and websites are you using for planning your trip?
  • What do you think about the loss of “authenticity” in many sought-after destinations?
  • How do you find experiences to share with locals?

I am always happy to exchange a few words with fellow travelers 🙂

Hereafter I will leave you a few articles that you might be also interested in checking out:

As always, thank you for reading,

and see you in the next article! 🙂

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