I read a FANTASTIC article in the Kathmandu Post the other day talking about authentic cultural experiences in the other countries, specifically Nepal and how guide books provide inaccurate information when it comes to a country’s customs, heritage, and even instances where guidebooks are completely contradicting themselves with information on visa’s. Given the fact that most guide books are published once every 2 years there is that great chance of information being outdated and/or lost. The article also asked the question; How to get a real authentic cultural experience in a foreign country? In a nutshell it suggests how people need to get out of tourist/backpacker areas where the closest traditional cuisine you are going to experience is spaghetti and meatballs or a strawberry shake along side a snickers bar. The article also went on to say the best way to explore a city or town is to rent a bicycle or jump on the local transit and see what hidden places you can discover. The article ended with, put down the guidebook and truly try and experience a country for it’s people, customs, and not let a guide book take over your travels. I must confess before I left on this one yearlong adventure, I purchased a guidebook for all four countries I would be visiting. Once I arrived in Nepal, I know now that buying those four books before I left was the biggest waste of money. Guidebooks are great if all you want to do is sightsee, visit the temples, and to not think while allowing a book tell you where to eat, sleep, and how to say “Hello & Thank-you” in a foreign language, but if your looking for that “Authentic Cultural Experience” please control your urge to buy a guide book. I have sold my Nepal Lonely Planet Book and will be doing the same with the other three books.
I have compiled a list on how I personally obtain that “AUTHENTIC CULTURAL EXPERIENCE” over the years I have been traveling …try to ignore the cheesy guidebook sounding title.
- RESEARCH: Research what ever you are interested in when it comes to travel. Great sources of information to research a country: Google, library, and contact people from organizations in your city (ex: Polish Club)
-BE GENUINE ABOUT YOUR INTENTIONS TO TRAVEL: If your going to Thailand for some RnR..(Hint Hint). I hope you end up in a Thai prison.
-VOLUNTEER: Volunteering for local organizations is the best way to contribute to a country. It also is a great opportunity to meet other locals, international volunteers, and you never know what other opportunities this will lead to.
-LANGUAGE: Learn greetings and basic phrases in the countries language you will be visiting. Knowing even a few words in the local dialect can go a long way.
-SMILE: Especially when you greet someone.
-MAP: Obtain an up to date detailed map of the city, town, and/or village where you will be traveling to, before or after you arrive. (Google is a great place to start)
-ACCOMMODATION: Staying in backpacker/tourist areas for accommodation is perfectly fine but if you don’t like noise, ask a local where they would recommend you stay. You never know, he/she might even invite you to stay with their family.
-USE COMMON SENSE: Walk with confidence and always look like you know where you are going.
-TRANSIT: Use local transit or rent a bike. Some of my favorite travel experiences come from just hopping on a random bus and seeing where it takes me.
-TOURS: Stay away from over advertised organized tours, as you will be herded around like cattle. If you want to visit somewhere at your own pace where a tour frequently travels to, take the local bus or if you have money to spend, hire a driver.
-FOOD: Eat the local cuisine and ALWAYS try the street food. I always see in guidebooks that advise travelers to stay away from the street food. THE BEST FOOD IS ON THE STREET, just eat where stalls are frequently visited by locals, eat when the locals eat, use your common sense, and BonAppetit’
-BE OPEN MINDED: Try new things, get out of your comfort zone, and push yourself to do things you normally wouldn’t do.
Thank-you for reading, Good-luck and Safe Travels!!
PLEASE do not hesitate to contact me for any reason. Even if you have ANY questions about my work, tips & tricks on traveling, reputable NGO’s or just want to say “HI”, would love to hear from you and what you have to say.
So until next time, have an awesome day, look forward to possibly hear from some of you, and stay tuned for more blog posts coming VERY SOON!!
A local taxi driver waits to collect one last fare before he heads home for the night.
A grandfather hold his grandson with pure joy and love, you needed to be there to really experience his affection.
Kalimati Market in Kathmandu.
Resident of Bhaktapur.
Two young boys in Bhaktapur, Nepal eagerly asking to have their photograph taken.
Two men in the brickyards joking with each other as they wait for the next cargo truck to pull up.
Local men living in brick huts where they work amongst the brickyards.
A young Nepali girl has a case of stage fright as she curiously waits to have her photo taken amongst the brickyards in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
A Nepali woman graciously asks to have a photo of her child.
A Nepali woman eagerly ask to have her photo taken.
A small boy amuses himself amongst the brickyards as he waits for his parent to return from working in the brickyards.
A Nepali girl keeps herself warm as the monsoon starts in the Kathmandu Valley.
A proud Nepali father shows off his new pair of twins.
A Nepali girl poses for her photo in the brickyards.
A young Nepali child dressed in her best as she plays in the rice fields.
A Nepali woman who I think is the Nepali version of Aretha Franklin laughs, jokes, and dances as I take her photograph.
Time for tea.
A Nepali girl trying to keep dry as she works in the rice fields.