According to the United States Travel Association, vacationing is a $2 billion dollar business, annually.
Today, hotels offer unbelievable experiences and the Internet is an endless source of all travel packages. But there is a growing group of people who want to immerse themselves authentically, culturally and live like locals.
Stateside, this trend has Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia teaming up with Hyatt House to connect travelers to neighborhood businesses for the “Made in America” experience.
I hadn’t thought of doing this myself but on a recent business trip to London, I met up with a girlfriend who lives in Hampstead and we did the local thing – that is, we hung out in Hampstead.
With someone to show me around, it was easy for me to live like a local. She told me where to go and what to do. But for those who need a little help, jump on the Net and gain a bit of knowledge of your destination before your visit. You will be surprised how many different sites and apps, offer to “live like a local”.
If you are going to a large city like London, search out neighborhoods nearby. Hampstead is about a 15 -20 minutes on the tube to the city and is a beautifully kept neighborhood. It’s lined with refined bricked homes and well noted for it’s intellectual, artistic and literary groups. Past and present residents include John Keats, Lord Byron, Ozzy Osbourne, Benedict Cumberbatch and Erno Goldfinger (loathed architect Ian Fleming named his Bond villain after).
Talk to the locals, ask for directions, their suggestions or just say “Hello.” While looking for a place to have dinner, we stopped and chatted with the green grocer at the Community Farmers Market. He was happy to explain why we should bake with Bramley apples over Granny Smiths, in the end he was right – absolutely delicious.
Take the opportunity to eat where locals eat. In Hampstead there is tiny stand, Le Creperie de Hampstead – serving only crepes. The queue for this simple dish is often two blocks long. The wait can be cold and wet, but when you walk away double fisted with a crepe in each hand you can smell why it’s worth the wait.
Stroll in the neighborhood and explore. Hampstead is filled with gorgeous streets with vendors and merchants. Every alley is a surprise. Centrally located, it’s great for many other neighborhood activities. Nearby is the Hampstead Heath, the highest point in London. Walk to Parliament Hill and you will find a stunning view of the city, an open area to fly a kite, and out door tennis court surrounded by cafes and all sorts of events/shows for kids.
I can go on much longer about how my trip was wonderfully refreshing but you must try it yourself. I hear it all the time now – live like a tourist and travel like a local.
Former Battery Park City resident Ona Chan Hamilton is an internationally renowned artist and designer and fashion influencer. She writes about lifestyle, fashion and culture from her new home in Hong Kong.