There’s nothing better than experiencing a place through the eyes and ears of a local. You arrive somewhere and you don’t feel alienated or lost in the slightest. You fit right in and are welcomed with open arms.
There are most likely traditional delicacies and an ice cold jug of homemade syrup waiting for you on the terrace. Your host guides you through the place, thoroughly explaining what is what and instantly gives you a list of things to see and do. They also let you know that if you need any help or have any questions, they are here whenever you need them. You put your belongings down in the corner and open the blinds to gaze down upon the busy Old Town in motion. So how to do Dubrovnik like a local?
Traveling is about crawling out of your comfort zone, immersing yourself in local culture even when it has a huge contrast to your own and testing your boundaries. Why venture out to then spend every minute leeched onto a group of tourists, wondering around in an invisible cage? Set yourself free!
Let yourself breathe and don’t go stumbling into ‘nomad’ ghettos. What we mean by nomad ghettos are the places swarmed with plastered foreigners who seem to have lost track of what they’re doing, what their purpose is and where they are all together. It is in these types of places that you will find yourself most vulnerable. Despite being told by many guide services, that sticking to touristy areas is for the best – you are most likely to get scammed or robbed in those very areas.
Being in control of your own independent accommodation and situated in places where people live comfortably day-today is where you want to be. You can also access specific sites where you can find locals who are happy to introduce you to the city’s gems and give you an authentic walk through. Doing things this way ensures a wholesome yet real experience, away from overrated agencies who are more than eager to drag anyone around for a wad of cash. Using these kinds of sites can come with many benefits and can even lead you to genuine locals willing to host your trip and more.
Get rid of the fear you hold inside when it comes to trying new cuisine when travelling. Be brave and go for the most absurd sounding dish on the menu. Order a bizarre side and tuck in. Go for the cocktail you’ve never heard off. Dive into the strange looking finger-food that welcomed you to your table. Local food might look frightening but at least, if you taste something and dislike it, you’ll have a funny tale to tell.
A lot of the time, local cuisine will outdo a great amount of food on the regular market and will be a lot more economically rewarding. Ask the locals to give you a handful of favourite restaurants, stalls and dishes to try. Even if you love food from home, it will never be of the same quality elsewhere anyway. Test the waters for yourself!
Throw away and refresh
So you’ve been planning your trip for the longest while and have it all figured out. Or so you’re convinced. You’ve scanned every tell-me-how website and read every guidebook around. Heck you’re so equipped on knowledge that you could give others a tour. Or so you think.
Put this mentality to rest because there is never enough you can absorb to give you all the answers. No matter how certain you are – you will not know what you’re doing until you are there in the present. Abiding by guidebook rules and site suggestions not only gives off an air of ‘what on earth am I doing’ but it pushes you to follow in a sheep-like motion and be in the midst of where literally everyone is and has been.
Instead of being a ‘follower’, get cosy with the locals and ask them about their favourite spots, bars, parks and nightlife. Show interest and you will be rewarded with wonderful results. Be kind in your actions and tone; you will find that you are handed the same if not better, right back. Try to implement a blend of options into your itinerary so that you get a true taste of different classes and tribes.
Be innovative and create your own little guidance book, even stick a couple maps in there that you can check out discretely when needed. Curate your own list of things to do and add any suggestions from locals directly in there, as you go along.
Get by consciously
Rather than relying on tourist transit, enquire into the best local ways of travel and go for it. Whether you go by bike, motorbike, walk, train, rickshaw etc – make the most of it and learn through this. Being self-sufficient when it comes to transport not only grants you access to exploring on your own terms but it also keeps you safe from handling hawkers and guides trying to wheel you in for a scam.
Of course, travelling alone can appear scary to begin with but sooner or later that fear evaporates and you feel ultimately free and proud of yourself.
Don’t behave like an outsider if you want to be let in
Engage in healthy and open-minded communication with locals the same way you would at home. Show intrigue and curiosity in people and their lifestyle. Give them the chance to talk about themselves and to share with you. Ask about family, faith, cuisine and their hobbies.
Be ready to answer questions about yourself as well as this is how positive exchanges work. What do you know about where you’re from that would be of interest to them? Talk about your upbringing, school life and family. Exchange knowledge together and build a sense of familiarity. Discuss music and films or even television, you’ll be surprised how much is out there that you’d never alone come across.
Forming connection is a big aspect of travelling, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. Keeping these things in mind prepare you for an unforgettable experience worth documenting. Not only this, but you can meet some really awesome faces along the way and bring home a lot more than you left with! Remember to challenge yourself and don’t be thrown off by the unknown. Engulf yourself in local culture and go on a journey of discovery with plenty of confidence.
Familiarise yourself with the customs and ways of being belonging to the place you’re travelling to. Do all of this in advance so that you’re well prepared and bring a dose of gratitude to the table. Look into religious beliefs, traditional views and communication properly. What is acceptable in some parts of the world is deemed as rude in others. What is welcomed with open arms somewhere is frowned upon elsewhere. What mannerisms are considered humorous in some places are taken wrongly in others. You get the drift!
Be patient when communicating with locals as not only are you asking them for something and trying to make sense, but they are also doing their best to comprehend what it is you are saying. Be mindful when exchanging energy with the locals and show appreciation where required.
When travelling, it is vital to remember that not everyone has the same privileges, upbringing or opportunities handed to them. Try not to spend excessive amounts of time staring at anyone and especially do not do this when you stumble across a situation that appears negative in contrast to yours. Be understanding and try to remain as judgement free as possible. Not only will this make YOUR encounters more pleasant, but it will also mean a lot to those on the other end.
It’s no secret that economic status is turbulent worldwide and isn’t the same everywhere. Even if you feel like you’re only being nice and have good intentions, it’s best to keep certain things to yourself. Another key factor to be mindful of is that, most of the time, people have pride in what they do possess and aren’t on the lookout for your sympathy or pity.
On this note, the last pinch of advice we have is always aim for humbleness and gratitude when you are visitor. Regardless of where you find yourself on the globe, approach with consideration and care and you will be rewarded in the biggest currency and we’re not talking money!
Now that you’ve read all of this, could you do Dubrovnik like a local?
Written by Maya Barach