Making the foreign familiar while on the road


Travel is, by definition, dislocating, a condition that the trend toward experiential travel and the connectivity provided by the internet aim to ease. 

“The first question is whether you should feel at home while you’re away,” said Tom Hall, editorial director for Lonely Planet guidebooks. “That feeling of difference is one of the joys of travel, as with it comes the invisibility to explore and to learn simply by being somewhere.”   

Yet even seasoned travelers can experience discomfort. Strategies for dealing with the physical side effects of travel start with the basics, including getting adequate sleep and exercise.  

“Although you may be going for pleasure, you’re out of your routine, and that can speed up your body and mind to act differently,” said Patricia Thornton, a psychologist in Manhattan and a member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.  

Travel can induce anxiety when trips fail to meet expectations or don’t go as planned, as when a bucket-list museum is closed. Anxiety-prone people may have a hard time making decisions. Remove them in small ways, like traveling with only a carry-on, which reduces wardrobe choices and worries about lost luggage.   

Having contacts in a city can help. Social media allows for people to make friends before leaving home.  

“I’m big on trying to find friends of friends; it’s a good way to get an inside look at a city,” said Kelley Louise, executive director of Travel & SocialGood, a nonprofit focused on sustainable tourism. She recommends groups like GirlsLoveTravel or Wanderful.  

To feel more at home, try out the local lifestyle by staying in a nontouristy neighborhood, eating outside of hotels and using public transportation. The following options can help travelers feel more at home while they’re away.  

Staying With Residents  

The original bed-and-breakfast model is built on a personal interaction with the homeowner. That has, for the most part, been amplified in the sharing economy through home accommodations services like Airbnb and Couchsurfing.  

The more remote the destination, the greater the likelihood of bunking with a local. There are no hotels on the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific, for example. Instead, visitors can choose from 12 homestay options in the rugged destination with a population of about 50.   

But even in a place like the Maldives, known for luxury resorts, local options exist. Dive Worldwide offers a scuba diving trip to the country with stays in guesthouses on two lesser-visited islands between boat trips to area reefs (from 1,995 pounds, about $2,500, a person for nine days).  

Switzerland Tourism offers a robust selection of farmhouse stays in rural regions that even includes a filter setting to “sleep on straw,” available in a converted barn in Cully on Lake Geneva.  

Eating With Residents 

Want to learn to cook with an immigrant in New York City? That’s the offer of League of Kitchens through which food enthusiasts can take one-on-one cooking classes on the food of India, Japan, Lebanon, Trinidad and more with skilled home cooks. Pupil and instructor then dine on the results (as Stephen Colbert did to hilarity on “The Late Show”).   

Touring With Residents  

Internet booking platforms meet local expertise in the entrepreneurial boom of touring companies led by local residents.   

Nancy Blaine left book publishing in 2015 to found Local Expeditions, a service based in Brooklyn that features walking and biking tours devised by independent guides with a portion of the proceeds earmarked for local charities. She said 90 percent of the guides worked for other tour companies, but through Local Expeditions they get to design and lead their own tours in areas that interest them, from biking around the Dumbo neighborhood to photographing Coney Island (tours range from $20 to $60).  

“I’m the type of person who would see someone on a plane straining to look out the window at New York and say, ‘Is this your first time here?'” Ms. Blaine said. “I love to tell people where to go. It kind of breaks my heart when first-timers go to Times Square and miss TriBeCa.”   

In November, Airbnb started Trips, which includes tours — called Experiences — led by local residents. In March, Harlem became the 15th destination with these tours, which are available to anyone, not just Airbnb guests (from $30). The Harlem trips include a workshop with the rapper Bodega Bamz and a bike trip around the neighborhood.  

Triip.me started with tours led by locals in Vietnam and has expanded to 98 countries, including Canada and the United States. Travelers can choose from itineraries such as a vegan food tour in Berlin ($25) or a night tour of Saigon on a motorbike (from $30).   

The global tour company Context Travel, which offers walking tours led by local experts, recently added a new program called Welcome To. Available in 39 cities, Welcome To is a two-hour orientation to the city with a guide — ranging from teachers to chefs and bloggers — over coffee or wine, followed by a neighborhood stroll. Prices vary by location from about $140 in Cartagena, Colombia, to about $265 in Tokyo.  

Some cities sponsor free greeter services that offer private walking tours with local volunteers, including Chicago Greeter and Brisbane Greeter in Australia.   

Meeting With Residents  

Meetups, or group gatherings, may forgo the sights entirely but unite people with similar passions. The website Meetup.com compiles group activities, like practicing a foreign language, knitting and political organizing.   

In Aspen, Colorado, traveling athletes can join the group Aspen Trailheads for a Thirsty Thursday run in summer that ends at a local bar in town, or a similar Tuesday Cruiseday for a group bike ride.  

Travel services may even spark a new hobby. Starting in April in Ottawa, Ontario, Xpeeria.com links visitors to local practitioners of everything from beekeeping to computer coding, drone piloting, sailing and even taxidermy.


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