When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

Roman Colosseum - international travel

So you like to travel?  Have you learned the lesson of adapting to the conventions of the area in which you are visiting?  Living the old proverb “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” will change your entire travel experience.

Have you experienced real Chinese food in a small town eatery where you’re the only foreigner in the neighborhood and have to order by pointing at pictures or nearby patron plates?  Is the Thai Massage you received last week at your hometown massage spa anything like the one you experienced in a small Bangkok suburb on your Asian trip last year?  Have you ever in your life tasted a kiwi as juicy and succulent as the one picked fresh from the vine on a country farm in New Zealand?  Experiencing more of the local culture in your travels will change your life.

It’s a lesson I learned the hard way.  As a young traveler, I spent some teenage years living in the Middle East.  Due to my inexperience and my family situation I spent these precious years mostly living in an American bubble.  My school was an American school.  My friends were Americans, we spoke English for the most part and only learned enough of the local language to navigate in taxis and do some limited shopping at local businesses.  I took no local language classes.  Despite this, the experience provided me exposure to a different culture and many unique opportunities.  Eventually, this formed the base of my love for travel.

The life lesson reality that hit me hard came only a year after returning from the Middle East.   By then, as a young single adult out on my own, I spent over a year living in Brazil.  Only this time, I learned the language, lived with the locals, adopted the culture, the food and avoided speaking English as much as possible.  What a difference! 

Only then did I regret my teen Middle East experience for not having learned the language and immersed myself more in the rich local environment.  Although I learned a lot, I also missed out a lot.

Ever since then my travels have taken on a different perspective.  I love to “do as the Romans do” as much as possible.  With a bit of research before traveling and a focus on finding and experiencing the local life, travel has taken on a different and memorable meaning. 

Sure, I still like to see the popular tourist sites and events.  However, most of my travel memories now come from departing from traditional tourist itineraries and exploring the local scenes.   Now I know what actual Chinese food really tastes like after wandering the streets and discovering local eateries where I am the only foreigner and have to order by pointing to pictures or plates of nearby patrons.  Italian pizza from a small Italian village pizzeria is absolutely nothing like pizza “back home.”  Riding in a cab in Athens, Greece—whoa, now there’s an eye-opening, mind-blowing voyage.  And that Thai Massage in a small Bangkok suburb is one I crave often.   

So here a few tips on experiencing more of the local culture and getting more out of your travels.  These are some of the few things I have learned that have made all the difference.

  • Ask some of the locals for suggestions on food, entertainment, sites to see and places they hang out.  Even your hotel employees have their favorite personal places that they often frequent but hardly ever reveal to guests.
  • Look for opportunities to visit smaller towns or locations different than the popular cities.  It’s in the small towns that see fewer foreign visitors where the local culture is unique and people tend to be more friendly and open.
  • Don’t be afraid to wander and get lost.  You might check with a good source first to know what areas to stay away from.  With those guidelines, just wander and enjoy the people, the sites, the food, and the experience.  I have met some of the most friendly and authentic folks this way.
  • Try a different variety of foods.  You may never be back so why not try all kinds of dishes.  You just may discover some new favorites.  And unless you discover some revolting options, you probably have been a bit limited in your culinary expeditions.
  • Research before you travel.  Learn a little about the culture, people and language. 
  • Dress conservatively, as much like the locals as possible to avoid that “I’m a tourist” image.
  • Have an open mind.  Go with the flow.  Talk to people.  Spend less time at the tourist traps and get out into the local areas. 

Basically, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  Your travel experiences will forever be different. 

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Airfare Options – Get the Best Price

Airfare option - wing of a plane in flight

In today’s world of internet search engines and metasearch travel websites, it is usually quick and easy to search for airfares and find the cheapest airfare options.  The metasearch sites search across a vast database of different airlines and also include other helpful tools for the traveler.  You can find price maps based on destinations, calendar-based pricing, price prediction, fare alerts, and even more valuable features. 

Check Out Options

So it is a good idea before you buy your tickets to check out multiple options via these internet search engine options.  You can often be surprised to find a variety of prices and you never know where you might find the best prices for your trip.  Often there are various itinerary options to get you to your destination and each can result in different pricing. 

Favorite Sites

While there are many different search sites, some of my favorite include Skyscanner, Momondo, Google Flights, and Kayak

Most often I will start my search for the best fares using Skyscanner.  Once I find an apparent good price I’ll open separate search windows and check on Momondo, Google Flights, and Kayak.  The last steps include checking the airline’s official website and also checking some of the websites of budget airlines that do not provide their fares to the metasearch travel websites.  Okay, this process involves doing several searches, but you never know if there are cheaper fare alternatives unless you check various sources.  It takes only a little extra time and you may save significant dollars.  Skyscanner often results in the best fares, but not always. 

Get Alerts

In addition to searching various sites, it is a good idea to sign up for email fare alerts with those sites that offer this option.  Once you input your range of travel dates and the cities involved, the website will then send you emails alerting you of price drops. 

There are also several websites that are dedicated solely to searching for the best airfare deals across the world and they post their findings regularly.  Getting on the mailing list with these sites may result in receiving notice of some spectacular travel fare deals.  Check out the Dollar Flight Club and Scott’s Cheap Flights websites.

Also, be sure to sign up for newsletters from airlines that you frequently fly.  That way you may be alerted to some of the best airfare deals directly from the airline.  Often these come in the form of a promotion code or a special offer.  You never know when these are offered if you are not receiving their newsletters.

Be Flexible

Generally, for your best airfare options, the best time to book your travel is from four to ten weeks in advance of your travel dates.  The best pricing seems to be for travel on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday.  These days normally have fewer passengers so the pricing is often less than the other peak travel days. 

If you have upcoming travel plans, be sure to check out the fares available for your trip if you were to purchase tickets in January or February.  You don’t need to travel during those months but airlines often offer some of their best fares during these months for ticket purchases.  Maybe they are just trying to increase demand after the holidays when many folks are recovering from holiday spending.  Anyway, it is worth checking out, even if your travel is not until the following summer months. 

Alternative Airports

Flying into alternative airports is another way to compare prices.  Although another airport may be further away from your destination, the airfare could be significantly less and, even with increased ground transportation cost, the total amount may provide for a less expensive trip.  You just have to compare the total cost of arriving at your final destination.

These are just a few concepts to consider when you are planning to book your upcoming travel and get your best airfare options.  The money you save by taking a little extra time searching through the various options may be just enough to cover the expense of extending your stay and prolonging your trip another day or two.  Or maybe it’s enough to provide a significant start to your next vacation fund.…

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Never been traveling before? Read this

Are you one of those that never have been traveling before? Does that thinks that there is nothing to see or experience in other countries? Then you are missing out big time. 

With so many different countries, so many different cultures this is something that everyone should try doing at least once. Many reasons why this is something that you should consider and many reasons why this is something that you need to start planning right now.  After you have read this, you will realize that you have missed out by just staying in your country, your whole life.

New cultures, new food, and new friends

When you are traveling, you will be able to learn more about new cultures. Cultures that you might have read online about. Or cultures that you didn’t know existed. You will learn how to eat and enjoy new food. is that is made of different cultures.

Friends. Some people are making friends overseas that they will never make in their own country. Making friendships that will never be broken and that you can visit, no matter what. 

It isn’t as expensive as what you might think

If you think that you can’t travel, because you don’t have the money for traveling, then you should think again. This is good news. 

Traveling these days isn’t as expensive as what it was a couple of years ago. More and more people can afford to travel. It might not be to the rich countries, but there are options that you can consider. Options that will still give you the traveling experience. 

The possibilities are endless 

The possibilities are endless. You will be able to find countries that you might not know about. Find out about countries that are similar to your culture and beliefs.

The one thing that is clear is that when you are traveling, you will never run out of countries to visit. You should just make sure that the country isn’t violent and dangerous that you are planning to visit. 

If you never have traveled before, you will not know what you are missing out on. Things that you will not experience in your own country. Things that you might not be able to do, later on in life. This is something that everyone should consider, this will be an experience that you will never forget and you will see that once you have traveled once, you will always look for the next country to visit or for the next adventure.

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