This is my hundredth post on the blog. How incredibly crazy is that? I wrote and published 100 posts and so to celebrate I decided to post some slightly different today!
There are a plethora of articles and books about filled with travel tips which typically tackle the subject of how to pack your bag (which is something I have yet to figure out) but I decided to also dole out my own brand of advice on the subject of traveling. And my first piece of advice is to trust the locals. Ask them questions. And listen. I have rarely met any local of any locale that was rude, unhelpful, or rebuffed me when I asked for help or usually directions. Plus locals aren't trying to sell you something, so you can usually assume their advice is genuine (Disclaimer: Be smart. Don't offer unnecessary information, stay vigilant, and don't tell people where you are staying and don't go to isolated places alone!)
This seems like common sense, but sometimes when you neurotically when you plan your trip to the last detail, you assume that you know where you are going and what you are doing. But there is always a very good chance that you will get stuck in an overpriced tourist trap or are totally lost. Now if you are somewhere like a National Park, asking a ranger is obvious. But it's always a good idea to ask the hotel manager or the concierge for advice. Before you go out for the day, if you aren't with a tour, ask them for the best directions to your destinations for the day and their opinions on what to see.
Not following my own advice meant that during my trip to Costa Rica, we ended up in San Juan when we were trying to get to Arenal. Thankfully we met someone who was happy to give us directions and we learned our lesson. We spent the rest of trip, driving, stopping on the side of the road by a local, pointing in the direction we were going and asking "Arenal?" and only moving forward if we got a "Si!".
Gas station owners are usually helpful when you are on the road (I did come across a man who didn't know where Shakespeare's house was despite the fact that he was in Stratford, but a customer was happy to help us). Asking teenagers and kids doesn't usually work out because it usually ends up being a very long "uhhh" or them thinking for a long time which is then followed by a shrug or a shy "I don't know". If you are lucky, a mom will come and be happy to help. Middle-aged individuals are usually your best bet for directions and suggestions.
And of course, it's important to be wary of your surroundings and take the locals advice to avoid certain areas no matter what your GPS tells you. Be wary and flexible about your plans. But also take the advice of a local with a grain of salt. If the locals strongly advise to go somewhere, consider it - but only after you ask another or multiple locals. When I was visiting in Jaipur, literally every Rickshaw driver kept recommending that we go to a local marketplace for souvenirs for fantastic deals. We started on our way, but then decided to ask someone else (that wasn't a rickshaw driver) about the market. He told us that we would only be getting bad quality cheap stuff and it was better if we spent our time and money elsewhere.
Traveling is all about opening your eyes to the world and but it's also about connecting with people. So don't be afraid to ask the locals for advice (Disclaimer once again: Be careful and don't tell them your life story and where you are staying, etc.) and recommendations. You will find that most people are happy to help and share their knowledge about their home.