I receive lots of questions about travel. One of the most popular is “how do I have an authentic experience while traveling?” This is an odd question because having an “authentic” (as in genuine) experience is always real. If you’re on the trip, it’s real!

To me, the real question is, how do I get to know the people beyond the tourist attractions?

I have several several suggestions. I plan to do a short series of these suggestions over the next week or two. Here is the first…

Don’t go to tourist attractions
I love castles and art, but love sitting chatting with the locals about life more. I also want to know where the locals go, so I have to ask them directly. I have had numerous conversations that started because I had no idea where the post office was located. There is a trick to this that I have learned over time. I won’t stop others that look busy or annoyed. I will stop and ask the woman eating an ice cream or the dad sitting on a bench with his kid, or the young couple in line at the movies. I won’t assume they speak my language by asking them in there native tongue. I will also avoid bothering people in tourist areas. This is where small shop owners are likely besieged by tourist questions all day long and will be less friendly. The ice cream cone girl taking a long lunch and not in a hurry is far more likely to be as curious about my home as I am about hers.