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How To Make Resort Travel Culturally Immersive

How To Make Resort Travel Culturally Immersive

Now that summer is here, many people are gearing up for their summer vacations all over the world.  And really, what better place for a good R&R vacation than a beach-side resort?

You can have these views:


These drinks:

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 9.00.51 PM

And the sand between your toes with nothing to think about besides what you’ll have for your next frozen beverage.

I love resort vacations as much as the next girl, but one thing that has become increasingly irksome to me is how little I get to see of the city or country where my resort is located.  I was recently asked whether I had any local friends in Nassau after having visited the island almost annually for 16 years.  And I was embarrassed to admit that no, I don’t really have any local friends.  I’m sure you know this feeling, too- you get off the plane and take a car to your hotel, and then you spend an entire week never leaving the property.  And, you haven’t even noticed, right?

In the last few years, I’ve begun to notice how little I actually knew about the resort destinations I’ve visited, so here I am with some helpful tips to help you get both the needed rest and relaxation you’re craving, along with a good dose of local culture to keep your mind and spirit active.

  • Get to know the geography. I know that this sounds like incredibly useless advice, but you’d be surprised at how important it can actually be!  I’m sure that you know all about the resort you’ll be staying at long before you get there, but do you know anything about the city or town closest to your resort?  Often times, resorts are located a bit outside the towns that host them, which makes the resorts such quiet and relaxing destinations, so you may need to get creative with how you get from your hotel to the town or local attractions.  With that being said, usually it’s fairly easy to manage with a taxi or local bus- this is something that the front desk staff at your hotel should be able to help you with.


  • Find the locals. In the towns surrounding tourist destinations, you will often find restaurants created for tourists, souvenir shopping, and other places that you wouldn’t ever actually find a local person. Instead of going to those places, figure out where it is that the locals actually spend their time, and there you will find the most authentic version of the place you’re visiting.  For example, during a trip earlier this year to Nassau in the Bahamas, I heard of a place called Da Fish Fry, which was meant to be a local spot to grab great seafood. Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 9.24.57 PMDespite my absolute loathing of any food that once swam, I decided it would be worth checking out.  Well, this experience absolutely changed my view of downtown Nassau, and I spent way more time outside of my resort, but also outside of the touristy Straw Market, and now I feel like I know Nassau a little bit better.


  • Attend local events. Whether you’re religious and want to attend a service at a local place of worship, or you want to attend the Junkanoo festival that Nassau holds on New Year’s Eve every year, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in the local culture through their local events and celebrations.  The local tourism website will typically have a list of local activities, from farmer’s markets and artisan markets to music or cultural festivals.


  • Talk to the locals! Usually when you’re at a resort, all of the people that you meet are other guests who are also enjoying their vacations.  This might be a great way to meet people from across the world, but it’s not a good way to learn about the place that you’re actually visiting!  Lucky for you, there is an easy solution: talk to the employees at the resort.  Most of the time the people working at resorts are some of the friendliest you’ll meet as they work in a very customer service-focused business.  You can have a great chat with a bar tender, casino dealer, off-duty lifeguard, taxi driver, etc. to find out who they are, and maybe even what’s happening in town that night!

Resort vacations are an amazing way to relax and rewind, but they also offer a great opportunity to explore shockingly little-explored cultures around the world!  I encourage you to get off property for a day or afternoon to get some good local food, have some good conversations, and learn something new about the world around you.  The bonus to getting out of the resort for the day is the saved cost of buying typically expensive resort food in favor of less expensive food in town.  All around, exploring your surroundings while on a resort vacation will only help to improve your experience and allow you to make fantastic memories outside the confines of your hotel!

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Solo Traveling: To Tinder or Not to Tinder?

Solo Traveling: To Tinder or Not to Tinder?

When I travel, I make every effort to get my eyes off my phone in order to actually experience what’s around me.  What a concept, right?  But with increasingly accessible data and wifi around the globe, it can be tough to meet the people standing around you when everyone is too worried about checking their Instagram feeds or Snapchats.  When you’re traveling alone, this can be especially challenging, as meeting new people is often one of the best advantages to traveling alone, but can be quite difficult to manage.  Sigh.  There’s nothing we can do to change this in our current social media and selfie-obsessed culture, right?  Wrong!

On a recent trip to Visby, Sweden, I decided to try to give the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality a go.  I got myself on Tinder, and I started swiping in an effort to find someone that I could meet that didn’t massively creep me out.  I felt that Visby was a pretty great place to do this for a couple of reasons; the city/town of Visby is so tiny and it seems like everyone knows everyone, which is a pretty comforting feeling.  Visby is also an incredibly safe and cosy city, so the risk didn’t seem as great as it might be in other, bigger cities.

I ended up talking to someone via the chat function the first night I was there, and we agreed to meet for a drink the next day at a pub right off the the central town square.  Even before I met my Tinder friend in person, he was surprisingly helpful by giving me ideas of things to do in Gotland while I was there.  I actually received a lot of great tips from people I ended up not even meeting with, which goes to show the friendly and helpful nature of the beautiful people in that city, and how useful Tinder can be in other areas, as well.

Anyway, after an incredibly long day of site-seeing (I walked nearly 40 miles while I was in Gotland!), I met with Charles (Tinder friend) to try the local Visby beer at a small Irish pub.  We spent a few hours in the pub talking over some great beer- it was really a nice and unexpected experience.  We talked about politics, current events, Swedish/American/Czech/British/French cultures (there was a lot of experience to draw on from both sides), language, and about this beautiful town of Visby with which I’d already fallen in love.  This is exactly the kind of meeting I hope for every time I travel, and I’m not always so lucky to find it given that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to meet people.  I think that in those few hours I learned as much about Visby as I had while walking all over the city for hours over the course of three days.  I felt more connected to the people and the culture of this place as a result of this exchange with a local Visbian (if it wasn’t a thing, it is now).

After a couple of beers, we decided to take a walk around part of the old city, which was an equally interesting and engaging experience.  I had already walked down almost every passable street earlier in the day, and had spent an unimaginable amount of time staring at the beautiful architecture, but it was a very different experience walking around with a local in the evening.  We walked to one of the many ruined cathedrals in the town and stood admiring the architecture and view for quite a while.  I found it so interesting that Charles mentioned on multiple occasions that he hadn’t stopped to look at some of the things that I’d become so infatuated with in the city- I guess this may work both ways!  His comments to that effect also demonstrated to me how easy it is for me to do the same in my home environment.  While I recognize that I’m in an incredible unique and fortunate situation to have a view of Prague Castle from my office window, I can’t help but think how many times I blew through the beautiful country roads near my hometown in New York without admiring the natural beauty of the region.


I digress; walking through these streets in Visby for what seemed like the hundredth time that day was actually one of the best walks I had through the city that week.  Walking through a city, any city, and having the opportunity to look at it through someone else’s eyes is an incredible experience, and one that will likely teach you even more than you thought possible about your perceptions, as well as the city itself.

So, for the result of my experiment: I vote yes to Tinder While Traveling.  I think that it’s an interesting way to meet new people, especially local people, and can be a great cultural immersion tool.  With that being said, I think it’s incredibly important to “Tinder safely”, as it’s obviously necessary to be safe and smart while meeting any strangers while traveling.  Make sure that you only meet with someone in a very public place, and also be sure to tell someone else where you’ll be, even if they’re out of the city/country.  I think it’s also good to recognize that it’s absolutely fine to use Tinder for non-romantic purposes as I did in Visby!  Tinder can be a great resource for meeting new people while out traveling in this ever-increasingly digital atmosphere where it’s hard to even make eye contact with a real human.


Tinder and travel safely, my friends!