Immersive Travel Defined
Immersive travel is about experiencing a destination through being there like a local. It means selecting a place to stay in a residential neighborhood, living like a local. It’s about the discovery process – selecting things to do, places to visit, food and drink, like a local would. It means budgeting enough time to allow getting steeped in the local culture, and history. A moderate pace is a key ingredient as immersion is accomplished by allowing the experience to be absorbed, and to sink in.
At the top of the list of requirements allowing for immersion is the choice of location for our stay at our destination. For travel in historic destinations in particular, I prefer a centrally located, residential neighborhood that allows for pedestrian access to the majority of the sights I would like to visit. There is a world of difference between stepping down from a residential apartment into a central part of the old town, as compared to descending the elevator into the lobby from your hotel room, hailing a taxi, and working your way through traffic for 30 minutes before starting your discovery trek.
The sense of being there like a local is achieved by living there like a local. This means selecting an apartment as the choice of residence for the duration of your stay. The destination opens itself up to you when you stay like a local. You walk to discover the city, finding places to eat and drink where the locals do. The destination unfolds before you as you do a walking discovery trek through all parts worthy of exploration in your vicinity. Locales and nuances are discovered that exist in nobody’s tourist guide, or blog post, as you turn the corners, following your sense of exploration.
Behavior – be a local and try to blend in. This is a key, and necessary ingredient in the recipe for immersion. Blending in allows interaction with locals, and allows you to have the experiences the locals do. If you behave like a tourist, you will be treated like a tourist, and miss the opportunity for an immersive traveling experience. Behaving like a local requires that you understand local customs. If dinner is customarily served late, conform your schedule to have a later lunch so that you can enjoy the local custom for dinner. An accomplishment in immersion happens every time you sit down at a cafe and the waiter greets you in the local language, and continues to engage that way until you politely respond in English. It means you’ve passed as a local. As long as you know a few key phrases in the local language, you will be welcomed in all of the places I’ve traveled to, and write about.