I have found that when you travel you inevitably meet local people. My favorite place to strike up a conversation with strangers is at small, outdoor cafes. Most people are happy to be engaged with fresh air, while sipping their beverage of choice, noshing on a favorite treat (this is not recommended in torrential rain storms, icy winter gales, or any other offending weather). Outdoor seating seems to push people into another earthly dimension. The world continues to hustle and bustle just outside of the little fences, some eateries deem it necessary to install, quite resembling corrals to keep the cattle herds from wandering away to greener grasses. Yet, it is an atmosphere that breeds conversations with relaxing contentment. It is also a great stage to people watch. Yes I said it “people watch”. I feel confident in saying it is a guilty pleasure of most everyone, some just enjoy it more than others. I am a curious person by nature and sitting comfortably watching the comings and goings of crowds is very interesting to me. That being said there is “people watching” and just being creepy, which are two completely different activities. One should be reported to authorities immediately, if you feel the latter is happening. The other is a great information gathering tool. You will notice what the community is like just by observing. To truly get to know an unfamiliar area though you need to talk to individuals who live, work or play in the region. I enjoy conversing with locals about the place they know better than the visitors center.
Let’s be realistic though, most of us do not have the luxury of traveling most of our days. Work, family, and life tend to tether us to an area. That does not mean travel needs to be out of your routine. Small local trips are the best way to learn about your own community. I have found that not being able to answer the questions “What is there to do around here?” or “Where is a good place to eat?” is downright embarrassing. I make it a point to have lots of responses for anyone who asks about the region I live in. The only way to honestly and confidently do that, is to go out in the community and experience your surroundings. Take a “staycation” in your hometown, road trip off the beaten path, or travel to a tourist area near your home. Get to know your community by experiencing your own neighborhood. One of the best gifts you can give yourself, is the gift of local traveling.