This September, we wanted to honor the special on-tour moments that epitomize what travel is all about—and Scott’s entry about the impact meeting locals has on your travel experience had us nodding our heads in agreement.
“One of my most serendipitous travel moments occurred in the small hamlet of Termini, near Sorrento. Our tour group had just finished dinner after a wonderful day on the island of Capri. My travel companion and I decided to take a walk and we discovered a small, family-run bar and grill off of one of the side streets. There were a few patrons, both inside and at the tables along the street. My friend, who spoke some Italian, asked the owner if an older gentleman sitting by himself was ‘friendly’ and would be willing to sit and chat with us. She was eager to speak Italian with a native in Italy! The older gentleman, Giovanni, was the owner’s father and enthusiastically agreed to join us. After introductions in Italian and English, he ordered us sandwiches with homemade buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil grown in the family garden, and bread baked fresh that morning. Giovanni and my friend conversed in Italian, and my friend translated for me. After a while, Giovanni stood up, said, ‘_uno momento_‘ and walked away. A few minutes later, he returned with an unlabeled bottle of red wine and three glasses. He had made the wine from grapes he grew in a small vineyard and it was delicious. Gradually, more patrons arrived, and the small stretch of street outside the bar took on a festive atmosphere. Time seemed to stand still as we sat long into the crisp summer night enjoying the conversation, the food and the entire bottle of wine. Connecting with locals in an authentic setting is one of the finest travel experiences!”
“Having the chance to connect with a local on such a personal level really balanced the travel experience for me,” Scott said. “I love visiting famous sites and seeing things that you read about in books, but I also love seeing what it’s really like to live in that country. Meeting Giovanni allowed me to do that because it gave me the opportunity to speak the native language among locals.”
As an elementary school art teacher, Scott enjoys being able to share aspects of his travels with his students. “Every time I travel I incorporate something from my journey into my curriculum,” he said. “I’m broadening my students’ horizons because I’m broadening my own.”
Scott’s travels abroad began just a few years ago when he accompanied a fellow teacher on a student-led trip with Educational Tours, one of Go Ahead’s sister companies. “I keep coming back. I love going on tours!” Scott said enthusiastically. He’d never done group travel prior to this trip, but as a solo traveler, the mix of guided sightseeing and free time won him over.
“I enjoy learning about the sights on the guided tour, but I also like that we’re also given free time—even though we’re with a group and the Tour Director is never far away, we still get the opportunity to do stuff on our own.”
Scott always takes the time to carefully prepare for his trips, and he has some valuable advice for first-time travelers. “One thing I like to do when I get to a new place is take a walk around the neighborhood near the hotel. I don’t go too far, but it allows me to get a vibe of the place,” he said. “You can see what the locals are up to and what the cafes are like. If you take that walk, simply find a place to park yourself and just watch.”
He also recommends learning a few words in the local language before departing. “I do this religiously before I travel,” Scott said. “I try to learn as many useful phrases as I can before I go. When you use a little bit of the language as you’re interacting with locals, I feel like they appreciate it. Many people do speak some English, but using a little bit of their language really adds to the experience.” Scott uses the phone app World Nomads for basic vocabulary, and Google Translate when he has access to Wi-Fi, which translates text (such as the words on a menu) back to English.
With his travel routine and pre-tour prep down pat, Scott is eagerly looking forward to exploring his next destination—although he’s (understandably) having a hard time deciding. “I have it narrowed down to seven tours. That’s pretty good, right?” he said, laughing. “I’m trying to decide if I should return to a country I’ve been to before, such as Italy, and see a completely different place, or whether I should go somewhere I’ve never been to.”
Whatever he decides, we’re sure he’ll continue to have amazing travel moments by connecting with the locals. Congratulations Scott, from all of us at Go Ahead!