We are often asked why we choose to live local. We do this because we feel that when we do, we get to see an authentic experience of what everyday life is like for other people. After all, that is what traveling is all about. It is about going out of your comfort zone and discovering ways of life that is different from yours. To us, living local allows us to fully immerse ourselves in the culture of the place while really getting to know the people around us. One evening, when we were deep in thought over our favourite travel experiences, we both noted that the experiences that stood out for us were those instances where we lived local. It wasn’t the Halong Bay party cruise in Vietnam, nor was it paying a visit to the Lourve Museum to see the Mona Lisa.
To us, our favourite travel experiences was when we lived with a local named Cho-Cho in Sapa, Vietnam. They welcomed Tom in their home where they ate meals together and planted rice during the day. Another highlight was when we stayed with a local fisherman and his family in Palawan, Philippines. When we were there, we fished, ate, and cooked together. Whatever it was, we had a common theme, the more local we lived, and the more memorable the experience was.
During those instances, we felt that we were able to experience the authentic experience of what everyday life was like for other people. After all, that is what traveling is all about. It is about going out of your comfort zone and discovering ways of life that is different from yours. When we were in Palawan, we stayed with a local fisherman and his family. Mang Jerry let us stay in a small beach hut where we slept on the floor. We would wake up daily and try to help out with their chores. From getting water from the nearby well or even cooking and washing dishes in their small kitchen. During our time there, we also experienced how it was when we had nothing to eat except rice. There was one day when the local fishermen came back with no catch. It was such a humbling experience to realize first-hand how dependent some people are on the ocean. Despite that, Mang Jerry happily offered us some of their rice without even batting an eyelid. (Read: 15 Photos that Prove Palawan in Paradise)
During our time there, life was simple and carefree. We left Mang Jerry to stay with another local and his family in Higari, Palawan. We rented a motorbike from the main town of Coron and got an invite to stay at his father in law’s house for free. Because we enjoyed our stay with Mang Jerry and his family, we decided to go for it and spend another couple of days in that small town. We didn’t regret our decision one bit! Mang Guido and his wife, who we fondly called Nanay are two of the loveliest people ever. During our stay there, he happily told us about how he raised 13 kids, and managed to put them all to school-working hard as a fisherman.
His mantra in life resonated with us as he said, people worry all the time. “I don’t worry. I go to work and I leave all my worries there. I go home, be happy and I spend time with my family. No matter what happens, things will work out” That is what life is about. It was amazing to see how a family, with the simplest of things followed this mantra. When we were there, we spent our nights talking outside in a small kubo by the sea. During the days, He let us borrow his fishing boat where we tried our luck in fishing (sad to say, it was pretty uneventful, apart from me falling in the water!) For a few days, we got to experience the simple life with no distractions. We made friends with their neighbors and the people in the village and even got invited to a children’s birthday party!
Those two experiences is something that Tom and I fondly talk about. No matter where we are in the world, we will always remember the kindness and generosity of the families that not just opened up their home to us, but who also took them time to let us be a part of their family. Currently, we are traveling the world in search of more adventures. However, as we look back at those moments where we’ve gone off-the-beaten track and lived locally, we realize that they are one of a kind experiences that not every traveler gets. Yes, they may not be as easy as doing pre-arranged tours or staying in hostels, but after all, that is what traveling is all about. Getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing different cultures and traditions as you seek life experiences that will change and define you as a person.
Interested in finding out more? (Read: Why Traveling isn't for Everyone)