While it may seem fun to recreate people’s experiences from their Instagram photos – piggybacking to try to see what seems to be the best places to visit. But, you don’t want your Instagram feed and your memories to be coloured by the same-old-same-same-old stuff, do you?
Off-the-beaten path, hidden gems, whatever you call them – there are way more interesting ways to fill your travel itinerary than by copying whatever everyone else is doing.
Why Celebrate Diversity
Diverse cultural experiences include learning how a variety of different cultures made and continue to make their place in any given area. This might look like:
- Asking questions
- Looking through the archives for a more full picture of the history
- Being curious
- Visiting a variety of different cultural institutions, participating in different events and festivals, and learning from a range of resources.
Eat Local Cuisines Served by Locals, Benifitting the Local Economy
The same as going to an all-inclusive resort and never leaving it doesn’t allow for you to see a full picture of how the people in the city or country live their lives, choosing to stick with restaurants and fast-food places that you’re familiar with from home denies you a full cultural experience.
It’s better for the environment and the local economy to eat in-season food made with locally sourced ingredients. Local food doesn’t have to travel as far to arrive on your plate, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Not only that, but a big part of experiencing a different culture or destination is learning about and tasting the distinct cuisine.
Here is a post with great tips on eating vegan when travelling.
Not sure what foods qualify as ‘local cuisines’? This exhaustive wikipedia page links to a huge list of different cuisines broken down by country.
Local food blogs, which you can often find with a quick Google search, are also great resources.
Eater.com has an Eat Like a Local page with destinations around the world.
Visit Concentrated Cultural Areas
So, what do I mean when I say to visit ‘concentrated cultural areas’? I’m speaking of places like China Towns, Little Italys, and Punjabi Markets, or similar worldwide.
The metro Vancouver area has the following:
There are also large populations of Filipinos, Latin Americans, Vietnamese, and Southeast Asian citizens.
Each of these cultures (and many others with smaller populations residing in the Metro Vancouver area) has their own festival during the year. It’s a great idea to find out if the place you’re visiting has a festival to celebrate its local culture. This will allow you to hear music, see performances, taste food, and generally immerse yourself in a different culture.
Visit Off-the-Beaten-Path Cultural Heritage Institutions
The big national museums and galleries are sure to draw in the crowds, and were likely part of the reason why you chose to visit the location you did. But, choosing to also visit smaller cultural heritage institutions will allow you to see things from a different perspective.
For example, not many people outside of (and even within) the Vancouver area know about the squatters’ shacks that sprung up at the Maplewood Flats in the 1970s. Ken Lum’s work of art near the entrance to – what is now a conservation area – honours these structures.
Explore Locally Historic Landmarks
Perhaps statues of a town’s mayor or of someone locally recognized won’t make it on a country’s ‘must visit’ list, but getting to know what makes each city or region distinct is a way to celebrate diversity.
Hire a Local Guide
Locals will be able to show you the hidden gems and personal favourites that typical guide books just don’t share. You can find local guides on the ToursbyLocals website.
Another great way to celebrate diversity is to visit locations from the Atlas Obscura book or website. Atlas Obscura calls itself “The definitive guide to the world’s hidden wonders.” Locals can share places that are typically unknown to most tourists, including quirky and interesting things that are worth checking out.