One of the greatest gifts you can receive as a traveler is the gift of hospitality. The world over we were invited into the homes of locals, sometimes for a coffee, sometimes for a meal and still other times for a safe, warm place to rest. In fact, spending time with locals played a huge role in our trip around the world. Locals served as hosts, tour guides, drivers, advisors and more often than not travel companions. The kind of generosity and hospitality we experienced is far and beyond the greatest souvenir we could take home because it was authentic. It was real. It was a genuine experience.
I remember being in Vietnam and getting into Ho Chi Minh City late in the day. We looked all over for a nice place to stay, settling in at a hotel that was modernly furnished in the heart of a tourist zone. It was inexpensive and couldn’t have been more comfortable, but we walked for what seemed like forever looking for a restaurant that didn’t have a menu in English and tables full of Westerners. Of course what we found was a small cart with little white stools around it. We had a delicious bowl of Pho, communicating with gestures and broken English with the proprietress. It was delicious, but more than the food I remember her smile and her gesture for us to sit down.
These experiences happened to us all over the world, but they were more often than not the result of happenstance. Now of course, just a few years later, there are websites like Withlocals and even apps that will help you connect with locals. From a home cooked meal to a cooking class with someone’s grandma and a local tour on the back of a motorbike exploring the countryside, the possibilities for authentic travel are expanding and that makes me excited to get back to exploring.
I’m looking forward to sharing the world with the twins. Of going to places and having experiences that will share with them the amazing people and places that make up this world. We had to wait until we were in our 20s to have those kinds of experiences, but with the opportunities that exist in travel today there’s no reason why they should have to wait.
Let’s just hope the girls master the art of chop sticks soon, I don’t want to see them attempting Pho with their hands!