When traveling to a new place, it is hard not to play the role of tourist. Whether it’s not knowing your way around, or struggling with a language barrier, locals often look down upon tourists.
So how can you take a break from being a tourist and immerse yourself in local culture? Mix in with the locals. By finding some place, activity, or event that is operated by locals and attended by locals, you can experience the local culture not as a tourist, but as a participant helping create the culture.
For example, last summer I was in Antigua, an island in the Caribbean. On a Sunday night, my family went to a place called Shirley Heights Lookout, which overlooks Antigua’s English Harbour (more info on Shirley Heights can be found here).
Every Sunday, Shirley Heights offers Caribbean food, local music, and drinks. This is entirely run by locals, and also well attended by locals. The sunset was incredible, as you can see below, and the views were spectacular.
Highlights from the food menu were Caribbean jerk chicken, fresh fish, and a wide variety of vegetables. Drinks included Antigua’s local beer, as well as a traditional Caribbean drink, rum and ginger beer. The live reggae band played for two hours, and many people danced the night away. And an added bonus of this whole experience: the entrance fee, food, and drinks were all very inexpensive.
Shirley Heights was a perfect example of a way to experience local culture as a tourist. The key to this experience was the authenticity of the event. Shirley Heights was entirely controlled by locals, ensuring that any tourist experienced the event as a local. In addition, the attendance of many locals created the local environment that was completely different from a touristy environment. This enabled me to have a real Caribbean experience unique to Antigua.
Shirley Heights was what many people want from traveling; a new experience that they could not have at home. Opportunities like Shirley Heights are possible most places you travel, and it all comes down to finding an authentic event or activity which forces you to mix in with locals.
So don’t be a tourist the whole time you travel. Take a break and get a real taste of local culture.