As a travelling family we always look forward to meeting locals and spending quality time with them. And if they have children who our kids can play with, that’s even more wonderful. There are many ways to engage in authentic experiences when you travel.
Here are our favourite tricks that usually work best for us to initiate the contact in a natural way.
There is no better way for kids to make friends than visiting local playgrounds. Depending on your child preferences, you may decide to visit the playgrounds when there is less kids or at the busiest times. It is always fascinating to see how easily children make friends and that they have no language and cultural barriers. If your travel extensively like us, then it is also culturally interesting to visit all the different types of playgrounds – from the simplest wooden environmentally friendly constructions to modern high tech equipment supporting the development of children’s gross motor skills. For parents, playgrounds are a perfect spot to meet local parents and engage in vibrant discussions about kids, get a hint on local family friendly places to visit, and even plan your next family picnic together!
These places are always busy with locals and it is usually quite easy to chat up someone and ask for advice about local food to buy or a recipe to try out. Local people are usually very friendly and happy to tell you about the products they sell, how they make them, and many of them may even want to take it further and tell you about their life, their family or even invite you for home cooked dinner. We made friends this way with a famous local artist called Barba on the beautiful island of Crete, Greece.
No matter where we are, the first thing we do is finding the nearest local library. Don’t worry if your kids don’t speak the local language, they can still enjoy some nice picture books and while browsing they may actually meet local children. Asking for a library event planner is a good thing too as most of the libraries will have some kind of entertainment planned such as story reading sessions or workshops. These will be perfect times to meet local families with kids. During our very first visit to the library in Nerja, Spain, our son met one of his best friends and we met his mom. We spent many beautiful weeks together and they introduced us to the local culture and took us to the places only the locals know about. We’ve been friends since then!
There is no better place to meet locals than participating in local events. Find out what is happening around, pick the events that appeal to your interests and take your family there. Local people are always happy to see travellers wishing to celebrate their festivals with them. They will invite you to dance with them, eat with them and enjoy the party their way. What an excellent way to have an authentic experience! And the party may never end as it is likely that you will be invited to the next one, just as we were when on the magic island of Fuerteventura, with even more food and dance!
One of the advantages of using the Internet is that you can easily arrange your get together before you travel or even on your way. Online communities such as InCommon will usually let you gather more information about the people you want to meet as you can study their profiles, exchange messages or emails, and also read other travellers’ reviews and references.
InCommon, for example, thanks to the in-built map function will let you find the locals nearby. Just define the radius and you will see who is the closest to your spot. Travelling as a family you will want to meet inspiring people who you can either learn something from or exchange your experiences and interests with. With InCommon you can do this by using the interest filter and identify the people and other families who are alike.
It’s also very handy to create and belong to interest groups and add people as friends. Then, depending on your location and travel plans you can easily communicate with your friends and people from your interest groups to ask advice, arrange meetings or even plan excursions together.
A quick summary of what you can do with InCommon:
- create your profile
- find like minded people and interesting locals nearby
- make friends
- belong to interest groups
- create your own interest groups
- exchange messages
Traveling alternatively is all about having extraordinary authentic experiences, immersing yourself in local culture, and trying to see the place through the eyes of the local people. If you travel this way you should probably already know that it is actually people who make adventures authentic and exciting. These can be the people who host you, the ones who you meet in the streets while buying exotic fruit or vegetables, or the ones who caught your attention because of the special talents they have. Thanks to online platforms such as InCommon these people can also be the locals or other travellers you meet online. Just get together and begin your adventure!
Download the app here.