Friday, 16 August 2013

Ask! Don't Go Loco...Go Local!

A local 'lady' I encountered in Lisbon.  Not much help with directions, though! (source - author)

Anyone who has travelled to a foreign country will have found themselves in one of those situations where a stressful discussion takes place, during the heat of the day at a critical moment of the trip.  This is most likely to occur when debating which direction to take, the best place to eat or to clarify if the building you are standing in front of is actually the accommodation you booked or the 4th century Etruscan relic you were aiming to visit.  The results of these discussions are always the same.  A dark cloud descends over the group as levels of frustrations rocket and the conversations become increasingly tense, where people start to say things they don't really mean or make personal remarks they didn't want to come out.  No need, people!  Naturally, you are all probably excited about witnessing the spectacular exhibits at the historical attraction on your itinerary or that beautiful secluded beach at your proposed destination, but why get stressed on what is your holiday; your break away from the daily stresses of life?

My solution is a simple one, but not the one we necessarily think of as our first option.  You just need to ASK!  Men especially, take your pride in your hands and ask a local - this is not your 'hood' and even you know you are guessing at best!  Try a few words of the language or point at a map, but make sure you go to the trouble of asking for help.  It will save you a whole load of hassle, an enormous amount of time and stop you from starting an all out war with your travel companion.  Besides, you are probably closer to your destination than you think!  Asking a local means that you are utilising a lifetime of local knowledge that will help you navigate the streets to your accommodation quickly, find that historical marvel in half the time and discover the best of a place without the bother of having to pour over the travel guides for an age.  Once you have consulted your friendly local for advice on your destination, whether that be on the streets, in a bar or in your hostel, you will wonder why you did not do it sooner!

Obviously, please approach your local with caution, particularly if you are a solo female traveller in a place you are not familiar with.  For example, in trying to find the street where my accommodation was located in Lisbon, I selected  my local carefully...I plumped for a wealthy looking elderly Lisboeta who was traversing the main city square.  I figured I could at least outpace her should she turn nasty in broad daylight and begin whacking me with her large designer handbag as a result of my poor Portuguese pronunciation.  Thankfully, this did not happen and she put me on the right track to the front door of my hostel.  Jokes aside...take care!

So ask!  It is the simple route to quick solutions to the travel problems and questions you may have about a place.  Locals know a lot, are keen to show off their place at its best and are often keen to help a bewildered traveller.  Make sure you take advantage of this.  Get on the inside track, be brave and just...ASK!

Safe travels!

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