Trusting the Locals

Today’s guest post is by Bailey Pianalto of Weekend & Wanders travel blog. Her blog features tips, tricks, and experiences with her husband, Vince.

Bailey & VinceI’ve been an avid traveler ever since I studied abroad in college. I’ve toured countless cities across three continents, sometimes in large groups and sometimes by myself. Not surprisingly, I always aim to be safe while traveling. I don’t put myself in deliberately unsafe situations, I guard my passport and lookout for pickpockets, etc. I’ve just always figured that feeling some degree of distrust in your surroundings is the norm when you’re on the road.

When I travel, especially abroad, I want to blend in as much as possible with my surroundings. (Certainly this isn’t always possible, like when my blonde hair and blue eyes give me away in places like Spain or Italy.) I do this in an attempt to better immerse myself in the cultures that surround me, and I’m not alone. Many travelers strive for this kind of total experience when abroad. True travelers relish in the opportunity to feel deep connections with parts of the world that they’ve never seen or felt or tasted before.

Feeling distrustful in your surroundings dilutes those moments. People who truly enjoy traveling do so not for the rush of chasing after a pickpocket down Las Ramblas, but for the chance to experience new cultures and worlds. But if you’re constantly worried about pickpockets zeroing in on you or vendors overcharging you, you feel like nothing but an outsider. The situations I’m describing are very safe situations in the grand scheme of things, but they still infringe upon your personal space and belongings. They can make you feel vulnerable and exposed to situations outside of your control.

Vis - Beach 1It may be hard to believe, but when you feel complete trust in your surroundings while traveling you feel so much less like a tourist and more like a local. The first time I experienced this level of connectivity was on my honeymoon in Croatia where we spent a few nights on the island of Vis. For four glorious days we drove our rented scooters across the Vis countryside scoping out the best beaches and outdoor cafes.

The first time we unpacked our scooters and headed for the beach, I panicked. How could I have been so stupid? We can’t both swim together if one of us has to watch our stuff all the time! But as we walked along the beach to find the perfect for our towels, my panic subsided. The majority of our fellow swimmers had left their towels and belongings completely unmonitored while they happily swam in the crystal clear water.

Vis - Beach 2No one was suspiciously eyeing their neighbors or worried about their wallets being stolen. Everyone was simply there to enjoy themselves. Observing this level of trust among locals and other tourists, I felt compelled to leave my camera bag and our wallets unattended on the shore while we swam. This was a level of trust that I had never felt before in a foreign country, and it was truly liberating. I felt a connection to my beach neighbors like I’d rarely felt before. We were a genuine slice of humanity: simply enjoying a relaxing afternoon among peers in a peaceful manner. Who knew that a simple swim at the beach could unleash such vivid feelings from a traveler?

SeljalandsfossNow that I know what it feels like to be completely accepted and connected by your surroundings while abroad, I’ve started to appreciate those moments more and more. They’re not completely rare, but they don’t happen everywhere. The last time I experienced that level of trust was in Iceland.

During our road trip around the island, we had to leave our car parked near a waterfall (Seljalandsfoss) for the evening since a bus had to drive us the 15 km to our hotel for the evening. We felt so completely safe in our surroundings that we left a lot of valuables in our car, including laptop computers, nice camera equipment, and SCUBA gear. We didn’t think once about the risk of someone taking advantage of the numerous cars parked and breaking into them. Moments like this can make all the difference when you’re traveling.

Bailey & Vince - IcelandWhen I truly trust my surroundings, not only do I feel a stronger connection to the culture I am visiting, but I also feel like I am able to enjoy the trip more. I am not wasting energy worrying about my safety. Rather, I am using that brainpower to notice more details and embrace more experiences. Being able to truly trust your surroundings frees your senses and allows you to enjoy your trip to the fullest!

Author Bio: Bailey is a native of Kansas City, Missouri in the US. She has always been an avid traveler and photographer, especially after studying abroad in Spain. When she isn’t at her day job, she’s working on the next post for Weekends & Wanders, her travel blog devoted to her newlywed adventures with her husband Vince.

Bailey and Vince prefer to travel to places further off the beaten path, like Iceland and Croatia. They love sharing their experiences and photos with their readers! Check out Weekend & Wanders on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.

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