The world of travel is evolving rapidly. These days, everyone wants a more local feel. Off-beat travel, local connections, travel like a local are some of the buzz words in the industry. Even I dig these buzz words as they help me make a better connection with my destination and thus make my journey more memorable and special. In simple words, this is the international social travel trend. A lot of my travel experiences were richer and in some cases possible because I traveled with a local. Traveling with such locals gave me a perspective and reach that I would not have found in my guide books, wikitravel or on online forums and definitely not by staying within the tourist district.
My first start with this trend long ago was with Couchsurfing where I met locals for coffee, lunch, dinner and sometimes even found a pad to crash at their place. I found great value in listening to their tips and suggestions. I still remember the helpful advice given to me by my Couchsurfing friend from Singapore and how I ended up doing totally cool off beat things in this city-country.
Then, in my days of travels, I made many friends from across the globe. We would offer each other free accommodation and the services of a personal guide (the friend) when we visit their country. I would always try and take up on this offer. While I definitely saved money on accommodation and it is always nice to catch up with a friend, I got to explore the strange city from a local’s perspective - A local who was born or lived most of his/her life there. Some of their tips cannot be found on my forum or book. And when you travel with such locals, you learn more about the local culture and definitely make more local friends. My trek to one of the top 10 active volcanoes in Indonesia was possible because I connected with my local Indonesian friend. I would have struggled to do it on my own.
I took on Airbnb with similar gusto. Their reach was better. They were safer and they offered me great value for money especially in more expensive cities across the world. With Airbnb, I always ended up staying away from touristy areas, which meant that I got to experience the city like a local. Staying with local families meant that I understood local culture, traditions, mannerisms very quickly, made an effort to pick up the language faster, got treated to some delicious home cooked meals and ended up getting some refreshingly special tips. My trip to Hong Kong and Taipei were especially special because of such local connections.
These days, this international social travel trend is spreading to more than just homestays. Today, you can eat with locals (a lip smacking home cooked meal in a home environment), tour off-beat spots with a local (Unseen landscapes, local markets, local pub crawl and more) and even indulge in local activities (Thai massage session, Balinese cooking classes and the likes). Withlocals.com is a great travel product that allows us travelers enjoy all of the above in a seamless and safe way. All they do is connect passionate locals with us travelers.
These locals are ones who are passionate about their culture, their country, their food and want to be an ambassador for their country. Like Airbnb, Withlocals also has a verification mechanism that vets these locals through a detailed safety process and once they clear it, these locals are then connected with us travelers and tourists through the peer-to-peer marketplace. Thus, we travelers can easily connect with the locals and get to experience their culture, traditions, places and food from a different and unique perspective.
So far, they cover many countries in Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines and Sri Lanka. They just entered into the Philippines market and are planning a launch into South India soon. So, if you are a passionate local who wants to meet interesting travelers, be an ambassador for India and want to make good money in the process, you should check them out and see if you want to become a host. And you can also look them up if you are a traveler who likes to follow in the steps of the latest international social travel trend.
I hope you find the above tips and platforms handy for your next trip, but this time with locals. Go on, explore the city the way the locals do and discover a totally cool type of travel.
The images in this post are courtesy of WithLocals.