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8 Non-Touristy Things To Do In Every Country You Visit

8 Non-Touristy Things To Do In Every Country You Visit

With all the resources at our disposal today, it’s never been easier to plan a vacation. You can book your accommodations, arrange for transportation, make dinner reservations, and even have a bottle of wine sent to your room long before you ever set foot on foreign soil.

The downside of all this convenience is that it’s entirely possible to visit an exotic destination, stay busy the entire time you’re there, and leave without ever having truly experienced the essence of the place, its culture, and its people.

The real way to experience another culture is to see, smell, and taste it like a local. Why stand in a never-ending line just because the guidebooks say it’s a “must-see” attraction? There are plenty of non-touristy activities that you can do pretty much anywhere you go.

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Here are 8 tips to help you truly get a feel for the place you’re visiting. You’ll get to know it on a deeper level and, who knows, you might even save a few bucks by skipping out on that all-inclusive travel bundle.

1. Skip the hotel.

Instead of staying in an impersonal hotel room in the middle of a touristy area, find a rental in an area that’s more representative of the local culture. You can find a home or apartment for rent on VRBO.com or, if you’re really adventurous, claim a murphy bed in a stranger’s living room on Couchsurfing.com. By staying in a real home in a real neighborhood, you’ll get a more authentic experience plus have access to amenities like a kitchen where you can prepare food you’ve picked up at the local market.

2. Eat like a local.

Speaking of food, if you want to really get a taste of the local flavor (pun intended), you’ll need to stay out of the restaurants recommended in the travel guide. Instead of hitting the overrated tourist hotspots, ask your cab driver, or just some guy walking down the street, what they recommend. Find out what signature dish(es) the city or country is known for, and don’t be afraid to try something you wouldn’t normally eat.

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3. Do some people watching.

One great way to ruin a vacation is by over-scheduling. Pack too many activities into your trip and you’ll only end up feeling exhausted and empty. Instead of rushing frantically from one attraction to another, find a cozy park bench or sidewalk cafe and just soak in your surroundings. You’ll pick up a lot about the people, their habits, and the general pulse of the culture.

4. Strike up a conversation.

While you’re dining at a local establishment or people-watching in a shady plaza, don’t be afraid to chat up other diners or passersby. (If they speak another language in your destination, you’ll want to learn a few words and phrases before you go.) It’s a great way to get firsthand knowledge about the area, as well as recommendations for restaurants and other lesser-known attractions.

5. Go exploring with a local.

Not to knock all the professional guided tours, but the best way to see the sites in an area is with a local. Meaning just you (and the rest of your party) and him. Instead of taking the crowded tram to the top of the volcano, grab a backpack and hike it with someone’s who’s done it a dozen times. Rather than boarding an organized charter, see if a local fisherman will let you tag along on the day’s voyage. If you’re lucky, he might ask you to stay for dinner and grill up some of the fresh catch.

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6. Get lost.

Now before you take this tip too seriously, let me explain. Tours, whether commercial or private, are a great way to see an area.  But sometimes there are much more interesting things to see just a few steps off the marked path. Don’t be afraid to fold up the map and just explore aimlessly. You never know what you might find.

7. Pursue your interests.

Not only are vacations a great time to experience new things, but they’re also the perfect opportunity to do some of your favorite things in a new context. Say you’ve always wanted to try Latin dancing. Sign up for a class at a local studio. Love going to yoga when you’re at home? Try a class that meets at sunrise on the beach.

8. Give back.

There are a number of benefits to each of the tips on this list, but none are quite as rewarding as volunteering. By helping out with a building project at a local school, aiding with relief efforts after a disaster, or just taking food and supplies to a local shelter, you can truly identify with the local population and their struggles. Even better, you can do much to make a difference and to help bridge the gap between cultures.

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So on your next vacation, avoid the urge to book the package deal and opt for a trip that’s a little more a la carte. Instead of a tourist with a fanny pack, you’ll look like someone who really belongs. And instead of a suitcase full of mass produced souvenirs, you’ll come home with a mental scrapbook of authentic memories that will last a lifetime.

Featured photo credit: photographer-407068_1280/SplitShire via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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