Skip the tourist traps and travel like a local! How, you ask? It’s pretty simple! When choosing where to book your accommodations, focus on local establishments like a bed and breakfast or boutique hotel. Or, if you are feeling especially trendy, use social apps like Airbnb to immerse yourself in an authentic neighborhood surrounded by the smells, sounds, and sights of that community. Staying at an apartment or home owned by a local allows you to connect with community members and understand the local culture through an intimate lens. Locals can direct you to restaurants, bars, and hideaway places unfamiliar to mass tourists.
Feeling hungry? Dine like a local! When dining out, chose restaurants that support locally sourced food from the surrounding area. Supporting the “farm to table” movement not only guarantees a delicious, nutrient-filled dish, but also protects the environment while sustaining local agriculture for generations to come. Also try the local “Mom and Pop” diners and cafes. This is a great way to learn about the food of the region. Country ham, anyone?
Trying to figure out what to do? Take some time and volunteer within the community, meeting like-minded travelers and having the opportunity to see uncharted locations not often seen by the average tourist. If volunteering is not your thing, why not explore with a local? Forget venturing on large tour buses. Websites like Vayable offer a unique approach to exploring the sights and sounds of a community. Locals offer their perspective of their favorite spots all tucked away from tourist traps.
Bring home an authentic souvenir by purchasing an item that truly represents the people and culture instead of being mass produced. Be on the lookout for farmer’s markets, festivals, and small shops that showcase and support local artisans. Shopping local invests in the community’s future and encourages local prosperity. Purchasing a one-of-a-kind souvenir represents the sense of place and is a great bragging opportunity to your friends.
Lastly, put down the camera! That’s right! Putting down the camera or phone allows you to truly soak up the most of your trip while traveling and forces you to focus on the present! The secret to really understanding a culture is through its roots and flavors…so try everything at least once. Think experiential and explore like a local. You won’t regret it!
Find out more about the Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management at rhtm.utk.edu.