Wanderer, explorer, traveller, wayfarer, thrill seeker… we use so many words to describe ourselves when we travel. Funnily enough though, most of us avoid describing ourselves as tourists, even though that’s exactly what we are. But these days the concept of being a ‘tourist’ is tied up with a few negative connotations, namely the traveller who never strays from the beaten path and fails to get to know the place they are visiting more deeply. I tend to agree – particularly given that my goal when travelling is to experience a place like a local. So, I guess it’s obvious that if you don’t want to see a place like a tourist you have to do your best to fit in, or at the very least don’t attract attention to yourself as being a visitor.
Recently Uniqlo shared with me a few pieces from their collab with Ines De La Fressange, and when I got my hands on the items I realised they were the perfect travelling attire, a combination of French simplicity, minimalism and comfort which makes them the ideal uniform for wandering the globe. And whilst it may be hard to look like a local in every country of the world, it’s not as hard to avoid looking like your average tourist.
In case you’re trying to understand why it might be useful to fit in when you travel, my reasons for this are two fold. One centres around safety and not wanting to make a target out of yourself by looking like someone who doesn’t know the place well, and the other (less extreme) reason is about how much more of the place you’ll get to explore if you are able to act like a local or even just fly under the radar. As someone who lives in a city swarming with tourists, it’s refreshing when I meet travellers that are outside of the stereotypes and want to know a place on a deeper level – I’m much more likely to share my secret spots! Here are my thoughts for you to take on board for your next trip.
Reflect what the locals wear
This doesn’t mean go out and buy yourself a sari as soon as you get to India (although you can), it’s more about reflecting the tone and dressing approach of the people in the country you’re visiting. So if the women wear long pants or skirts and scarves around their necks (think India, Middle East etc), thats what you should be doing too. If everyone is a little dressy (Italy, France) that’s what you should go for. If every avoids sneakers like the plague, then, so too should you. Locals (most of the time) really appreciate a nod to their customs and culture, and this is a great way to get off on the right foot. You’ll have them inviting you to their mother’s place for a family lunch if you get the dress code right! 🙂
Camouflage your camera
That Nikon logo in 3 inch letters on your shoulder is sure to mark you as a tourist, and it’s something many of us do without thinking about it – including me! A camera strap is important though, so one idea is to swap it out for something else that’s not so bright, or even cover the logo with dark duct tape. Depending on how often you use your camera, you should also consider having an easy to access satchel bag on your hip that you can put your camera in when you’re not using it. As soon as you remove the camera element you’re going to look 50% less like a tourist. Trust me.
Ditch the tourist trappings
Bum bags, hiking boots, visors and athletic sandals are all things that immediately mark you as a tourist. In some places they’re absolutely essential and therefore not something you can ditch, but wherever possible, particular in some cities where people are more directional about what they wear, it’s a good idea to skip those things. But naturally you’re going to want a comfortable pair of shoes, so it’s a great idea to invest in something that you can walk in but that doesn’t scream ‘I’m not from around here’. A nice pair of leather boots and a pair of sleek, chic sneakers are an idea.
When in doubt, cover up
Travelling like a local is, essentially, all about not drawing unwanted attention to yourself. And whether you’re wandering the streets of Sydney late at night or in the Souks of Morocco, when travelling it’s good to fly under the radar. Covering up helps in this regard (and I hope you don’t think I’m being anti-feminist when I say this). If I have any doubts about what to wear I always find that the best thing to do is to cover up a little – soft trousers, longer sleeves and a scarf in my bag are always great for if I stumble into an unknown area and want to blend in.
Hide that map
Let me just stand here on the corner of this busy street market and consult my lonely planet shall I? How many times have we all done this, unknowingly marking ourselves as the ultimate tourists. And yes, while it’s not unusual to have to check where you’re going now and again, try to be as discrete about it as possible – do it while you’re having lunch and then put it away for your wandering time, or take some pics on your phone and use them instead – an iPhone is better than a guide book.
Learn some key words
Make the most of that long flight by trying your hand at even just a few keys phrases for your destination – important greetings, please and thank you and how much is that are a great place to start. Obviously the more you can speak the better butttttt even just a few words will do lots to show people you’re respectful and get the ‘conversation’ started. And whatever you do, don’t lose the plot because no one can understand you (we’ve all been there), it will get you nowhere. Persevere as much as you can, hello hand gestures, after all having different experiences is the reason you left your home country right?
I’d love to hear any more tips you have for fitting in when you travel!
An easy outfit of soft pants and a long sleeve top, these Uniqlo x Ines De La Fressange pieces are just what the travel doctor ordered. Comfy pants that are still a little dressy are also perfect for the plane!
Wearing: Uniqlo x Ines De La Fressange top and trousers, Coach bag, sandals my own design.
Photos by Nicola Lemmon. This post is in collaboration with Uniqlo.