Travelling locally doesn’t mean to your local park or pub. It doesn’t mean taking the 159 bus down the road or walking around the block a few times.
Travelling locally means that when you travel, you prioritise the local communities by visiting small, independently run restaurants, accommodation, and activities organised by the local people as opposed to huge chains or multinational companies.
Why travel locally? Because it benefits you. It benefits the population that actually makes the destination you’re visiting so memorable and spectacular. It promotes diversity in the world. And it creates memories through travelling that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.
In this blog, we’re going to unpack what local travel actually is. We’re going to set out the benefits it brings local communities all over the world, and explain how, by travelling locally, you don’t just benefit these communities but also enjoy richer, more authentic experiences as you travel.
What does it mean to travel locally?
To make it clear what we mean by local travel, it would be useful to lay out what the absolute antithesis of local travel is to give you a clear idea of what we don’t mean.
Think about a holiday you might book with a major package company to some part of the Mediterranean coast, where your flights, accommodation, food and drink are all paid for in one lump sum to an all-inclusive resort and airline.
When you travel like this your money, every penny of it, is going into the pocket of a multinational company, run by people who don’t even live in the area you are visiting. Of course, some will go indirectly to local people who clean your hotel room, cook your meals and ensure the smooth running of the resort, but it’s realistically a tiny fraction of what should be going to the locals.
This can result in the displacement of locals as rent is driven up by wealthy hotel chains, the dilution of local culture as the region caters for western tastes, and overcrowding as resorts look to pack in as many tourists throughout the year as possible.
Eventually, you can end up with tensions rising between locals, tourists and ex-pats, and drive a wedge between travellers and natives. To us, this is the absolute opposite of what the concept of travel should do. Travel should be bringing people together, introducing individuals to new ways of life and helping to promote empathy in the world.
We believe this truly can be achieved by travel done properly – by travelling locally.
To us, travelling locally is visiting small, family-run restaurants, B&Bs, or simply heading to the places the locals hang out. It’s employing local people from the area to be your guide, or to take you on experiences, so that you can see the most authentic, most compelling side to a destination.
To paint a picture of what this looks like – take that same trip to the Mediterranean coast and examine how you might travel locally there. First of all, your accommodation would certainly not be in a high rise tower block or an all-inclusive resort you wouldn’t expect to leave.
It might be in a B&B, a small boutique hotel, or even with a host family. Immediately you might think it’s difficult to find this type of accommodation or that it might be extremely expensive, and whilst it may be slightly pricier, if you research properly you can absolutely find reasonably priced accommodation that means your money goes into the pockets of small, independent suppliers instead of large hotel chains.
Instead of eating every day in a resort, you would visit local bars and restaurants, run by individuals who actually live in the area and, ideally, have grown up there too. You would try the local food, meet the local people, and experience a way of life unlike your own at home.
Popular Local Experiences
How does travelling locally benefit locals?
The benefits for the local population of travelling locally are virtually endless. Other than negating the negatives we picked out above, there are actually a number of reasons local travel truly helps the population you are visiting.
1. Your money goes towards supporting local business
We’ve touched on this point a number of times now, but there’s no denying this is the clearest and biggest impact your local travel makes.
In a world of huge multi-national corporations and monopolisation, here at Not In The Guidebooks we believe it’s important to support small, independent businesses and in doing so, ensure more money made through tourism actually goes to the local people.
When you spend with, say, the Marriot, the majority of your money is dispersed into a global business, with a small portion of that going to the cleaners, cooks, and reception staff that keep the place running and actually live in the area.
When you spend with an individual running their own B&B, every penny goes to them, which means your investment stays within the local economy and can improve the standard of living for everyone in the town, village, or neighbourhood that you’re staying in.
2. Local travel preserves ways of life
One of the main issues with overtourism and travelling without the local population in mind is the way it can dilute the existing culture of a community.
As more and more tourists arrive without wanting to experience local culture or cuisine, the more travel companies and the local population are likely to pander to the tastes and habits of, say, western people.
By travelling locally and seeing the true side to a culture, you can help preserve traditions and practices that are so vital for making the world a rich and varied place to travel. If you seek out genuinely local, authentic experiences, then you help preserve these cultures by, somewhat unfortunately, monetising them.
If travellers make choices that show local populations value experiencing their culture, they have an incentive to maintain their way of life. By visiting festivals, working farms or vineyards, ancient religious events or even just traditionally-run restaurants, you can help to keep a culture alive.
3. Travel locally to protect the environment
Not only does travelling locally protect local culture, but it can also protect the local environment and wildlife. Because travelling locally means staying in family-run B&Bs, homestays or independently run hotels.
When travellers stay in huge resorts or tower block hotels, there is a clear environmental impact on the local area, not just in the building sites themselves, but also in terms of the strain on resources – water, electricity, sewage etc.
If you travel locally and keep to small, independently run accommodations and avoid areas of overtourism by joining a real locals on tours and experiences, then you can avoid damage to the environment as you travel and make travel as a concept more sustainable. If the tourism industry is to make the change from being a cause to combating climate change, then travelling locally is an essential step .
How does local travel benefit the traveller?
Many of the benefits of local travel we’ve discussed already are inextricably linked to the benefits for the locals. But what specifically will you get out of travelling locally? How will your experience become genuinely memorable? And why is it worth taking slightly more time and effort to research before you go away to ensure you make a difference as you travel?
1. You are guaranteed a more memorable holiday
One thing that we find here at Not In The Guidebooks, is that the memories that really stick when it comes to travel aren’t the sites you see, the food you eat or the places you stay – but the people you meet.
When you travel locally, the entire point is that you do as the locals do, and that means visiting the local attractions, eating where the locals do, and meeting the locals themselves. When you travel locally with Not In The Guidebooks, we put you in touch with the locals who are natural hosts, ready to make your time unforgettable with endless warmth and a pride to show off their homes.
2. You’ll find the hidden gems
Who knows London the most intimately? Who knows the best spots to eat in Ho Chi Minh City? Who can take you on the most beautiful hikes in the Pyrenees? The answer to all those questions, of course, is the locals.
When you travel locally and benefit from the unmatched local knowledge of a resident, you are sure to discover places slightly off the standard tourist track and come away having had a genuinely unique experience.
Whether it’s a tucked away market only the locals visit, a secret lagoon only the locals kayak in, or a rooftop with the best views of the city, if someone knows it, it’s going to be a local. We can get you in touch with those who know how to get the very best out of your time away.
3. You’ll have a richer, more authentic experience
For us, travel is all about discovering the new. It’s about getting away from what you’re used to, it’s about experiencing a different way of life.
When you travel locally, you aren’t served up a sterilised, carbon copy of your home in a warmer environment. You get to see how other people live – how they eat, how they have fun, how they socialise, how they go about their day-to-day.
By the time you leave, you will have had your eyes opened to different points of view, to different ways of living and with friends who, in our experience, will stay with you for life. For us that’s what travel is about: exploring a new destination, learning, become a more open and more empathetic person.
And for us, that’s about all we need to know to understand why travelling locally is the only way to travel.
Here at Not In The Guidebooks, we get you in touch with local people from all over the world, whether it’s in France, Spain, the UK, Cambodia or Costa Rica. We help to get you off the beaten track, to see the real, non-touristy side of a destination so that you don’t just travel the world, but you experience it.