Whether I travel in a city for a few days or whether it is a few months, I love to get involved in the community. This is how I feel I can best experience the true sense of a place, beyond the tourist sights. I’ve found that I am usually unhappy in a place until I find that community. You can find your community in many ways – I mean it all depends on what you’re into right? This is something oddly enough that I never actively pursued back home and yet it is so important.
It is important to become a part of your community to develop a sense of belonging and responsibility. As a community member you inspire, you get involved, you give back. As an individual, as the “I”, you seek personal pleasure, you seek material gains, you separate yourself, you take. I’ve been the individual, the separate “I”, for a large portion of my life. Now, I am a community member (wherever that community may be). I try to see where I fit in, what services I can offer, how I can inspire change and how I can give back. I ask myself: How am I similar to my community? How am I different?
Finding community while traveling will give you a sense of purpose as you wander. It will transform your travel experiences. And of course, the key to unlocking your community is to –
Follow your Interests and Seek your Passion
Take, Jonas. Jonas likes to make stuff. He loves gadgets and gizmos & if he isn’t creating, he isn’t happy. In every city he has visited, he looks to see if there is a hackerspace / makerspace / fablab. I am so into it. We worked with one of these places in Kuala Lumpur, upcycling waste materials into potential products & workshops that can be used to spread awareness. This gave us a whole new perspective of the city of Kuala Lumpur. What I would have thought as rather unsightly strolls through the real grimy suburbs, I soon saw as treasure hunting expeditions. I was collecting old tires off the side of the road. The streets were full of treasures. Just yesterday, here in Saigon, we were feeling a bit…bored. We wanted a community. So we thought, let’s see if there’s any of these hackerspaces in Saigon. We found Fablab Saigon. Now, we feel we have a place to contribute and a community to engage with.
Okay, so you believe me? Finding community while traveling is the way to go. I know it can seem daunting in a foreign country to come out of your shell so here are some ways I find community in foreign countries:
Take a class
Yoga, dance, pottery, cooking, sailing…it could be anything. What are you into? In Australia and New Zealand, I took regular yoga classes and raised my hand for the position of Karma Yogi. This took my life into directions I never could have imagined and I am so grateful for it. In Dunedin, New Zealand, Jonas and I signed up for an evening sailing course at the local yacht club. After a few sailing classes, we were ready to set sail with the local sailors in the weekend yacht races, or sometimes just on a casual sail out to sea – telling tales and munching on chocolate. At the end of the sailing season, we even won a yacht race!
Volunteering is a great way to follow your interests, get involved and give back. There are many ways to find volunteering opportunities. I often use Helpx, look for community boards in town or in the local newspaper. I highly recommend signing yourself up for a website like Helpx or Workaway. The opportunities are infinite on these sites. Jonas is interested in bees and dreams of keeping them once he’s settled. Through Helpx, he has been able to pursue this passion on the road – living with natural beekeepers in Australia and New Zealand. Together, we lived on organic permaculture farms down under. Jonas alone volunteered at a Yoga House in Thailand. We both volunteered at Biji Biji, an upcycling initiative, in Malaysia. If you use a site like Helpx, there is usually a fair exchange of volunteer hours for accommodation and food.
Get a job
There’s nothing else like getting a job in a foreign country. I love it. It’s exciting to me. I feel accepted. It’s a great way to come out of your shell, make friends, join the community all while sustaining your travels. If you’re wondering how to find a job down under, check this one out. If your heart so desires, you can find work anywhere…trust me on this one. The world is your oyster.
Go to Festivals
Festivals are a great way to join the community and meet people from all over with similar interests. This is a photo from Luminate, a festival in New Zealand that puts a great emphasis on workshops.
Go to Markets
These days the Farmers Market is the highlight of my week. I love talking to the stall holders, checking out all the deliciousness, watching the buskers, running into locals and seeing new ideas.
There’s always couchsurfing! This is an easy way to jump right into a new place right off the bat…and a free place to stay, yes! We have just dipped our toes into the CS world but so far, so good. Great people have helped and hosted us.
Have I missed anything…How are you finding community while traveling?
P.S. Do you even tourist?