“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”
– James Michener
In the Summer of 2015 Buffalo Tours launched a new range of tours to help travellers have meaningful local life experiences. These tours take you beyond the tourist track and into the heart of authentic Asia, where extraordinary connections and cultural discovery are intertwined with the stories and smiles shared with the locals. A Local Life tour means discovering a side of Asia you wouldn’t see otherwise. It’s about letting the local experts help you uncover a slice of your Asia along the way.
Of course, our promise to change travel to change lives lies with the locals as much as our clients and we believe local life experiences are one of our most successful responsible tourism initiatives. By focusing on local life, we are able to create revenue streams where they are needed most and encourage cultural exchange.
So, how can you make sure you are a more responsible traveller through seeking out local life experiences?
Going local means getting around as the locals do; take a public bus, hop on a bicycle or use your own two feet. Indeed, what could be more eco-friendly than taking a walking tour? This is one of our favourite forms of local life experience. Reduce your carbon travel footprint and discover the local neighbourhoods and backstreets that you would miss in a taxi or tour bus.
Seeking out the perfect souvenir is an important part of many people’s travels. A great souvenir can help your travel memories live on at home and this is especially true if there is a story behind the purchase. So, rather than stick to commerical souvenir shops or the airport, why not head to the source? We love including craft workshops and villages into our itineraries to meet local artisans and learn more about traditional artifacts. Go a step further by visiting those backed by the fantastic social enterprise, Backstreet Academy, who ensure that locals receive recognition for their art, as well as an increase in customers.
One of the easiest ways to go local and understand more about traditions and culture is to seek out the top foodie spots in town. Street food and local markets are a great start and you’ll know what’s good simply by observing the crowds. It’s such an easy way to learn about new cuisines and you’ll be supporting small businesses at the same time. It is these hard-working locals who deserve your hard earned travel dollar the most.
There are obviously some controversial local foods that are the opposite of responsible tourism, such as the elite favourite shark fin soup in China. Always make sure to do your research before you travel and trust that a good guide will steer you in the right direction.
Homestays are abundant across Asia and are one of the most inclusive ways to experience local life. More often than not they are situated far from the bustle of modern capital cities, in remote areas that ethnic minority groups call home. Homestays are truly unique travel experiences that can be the highlight of a trip to Asia. While living in someones home you will experience how they live, eat, relax and entertain themselves. Of course, having visitors stay is not an everyday occurrence and thus you’ll be able to learn a little about local hospitality and celebration too. Understanding is the first step in promoting responsible tourism.
Responsible Destination Choices
To truly understand the local culture and way of life, it is important to get a broad perspective. This is why we encourage everyone to get out of the city when they travel and visit smaller destinations. Venturing into the countryside and finding local life experiences there, by eating in local restaurants or staying with a family, distributes wealth more evenly and highlights the country and culture as a whole. Life is also a lot calmer and quieter outside of the cities, which is a great change of pace for weary travellers in frenetic Asia.