Why You Should Go Off The Beaten Track When You Travel

More and more, people are seeking authentic experiences while travelling, looking for genuine connections in places that only locals can give.

In light of this, last month we sent Australian actor Jackson Gallagher, Stateside, to scratch the surface of our favourite cities in the USA, exploring neighbourhoods through a local lens. Not only did he find the best eats, beats and scenes in each location; he also found the beating heart of each hood.

Jackson’s love of adventure all started at the tender age of 13 on a family trip to New York…

“I remember riding a scooter around Soho, exploring the streets and stopping to people watch. Cruising along, I remember I had a lightening bolt idea; as soon as I could I would move back to NYC. So I did. I finished school and spent the next year living in New York.”

"I'd walk around the city with a camera in my hand, assisting other photographers, taking acting classes and watching Marlon Brando films."

“Since then, I’ve continued taking pictures of people I’ve met, continued watching films, and sometimes acted in and made my own. Working in film and photography continues to take me around the world fuelling my lust for travel and adventure.”

This drive for seeing real people and places led Jackson to not search wider, but deeper, and he fully embraced the ethos of ‘traveling like a local’. Why like a local? Because that’s where the soul of city is.

“Discovering the true heart and essence of a neighbourhood allows me to develop an understanding of how people live their lives, how we connect and what our differences are. What better way to understand more about yourself and the life you are living, than through experiencing other people and their neighbourhoods?”

“I travel because I want to see how different people live in different parts of the world.”

True adventure happens when you go away from the paved roads and forge your own path. And we don’t mean wandering down dark alleys where trouble is probably waiting, we mean avoiding tourist traps and discovering something new. The only real way to do this is to think and act like a local.

“When you are at home and you want to try out a new restaurant or cafe, do you go on TripAdvisor? Or do you go try out a new spot based on a recommendation from a friend?” Jackson reminds us.

“Befriending locals whilst travelling is the only way to truly experience a neighbourhood as it is meant to be experienced. It takes time to really learn and feel out a city, so it makes sense to receive that knowledge from someone who lives and breaths the city everyday.”

But what do you get for your off-track troubles, besides a cool bar? Insider knowledge!

“Who better to really show you around a city or neighbourhood then someone who has grown up there?” Jackson stresses, “Sure you can read Lonely Planet and Google things, but connecting with locals offers you a deeper insight into what a place means, hearing people’s stories offers greater insight into the heart of a neighbourhood.”

“If you stick to the track you will never stumble across unique experience. The true adventures only begin once you step off the beaten track!”

How does one travel like a local though? Is this easier said than done? Nope, the trick to traveling like you’re a local is simple: don’t be afraid to talk to people.

“I talk to people, and make friends,” Jackson tells us. “Once when I was flying to Jordan, I sat next to a girl on the plane who was returning home from holiday. We started talking and exchanging stories and I ended up travelling with her through to Palestine.”

“Another time I was at an NYE party in a shopping centre in Seoul (trust me, it was wild). I gravitated towards a group of interesting looking people, I spoke hardly any Korean and only some of them spoke limited English, yet we become friends and I spent the rest of my trip hanging with them being shown all the cool local spots of the Korean capital.”

“It always starts with a conversation. People generally are excited to share their city with you, their neighbourhood, their home.”

Jackson travelled to the USA with Contiki, exploring neighbourhoods in New York, Miami, New Orleans, Austin and San Diego, alongside locals. Check out the local neighborhood guides below:

Locals guide to Williamsburg, NY

Locals guide to Little Havana, Miami

Locals guide to Bywater, New Orleans

Locals guide to The 04, Austin

Locals guide to Golden Hill, San Diego

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