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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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