This post has been brought to you by our very own Daniele Ghidoli, a much beloved member of WiFi Tribe! Hold on to your hats now, Daniele is about to show you how to incorporate meeting locals into your WiFi Tribe experience!
When I started my adventure with WifiTribe, I hadn’t a real reason for travelling, apart from visiting new places. After six chapters in South America with WiFi Tribe, I realised what makes me really happy about travelling: meeting local people!
Staying an entire month in the same city instead of backpacking is perfect for that: slow travelling is the only way to get to know about the country’s culture and people.
Moreover, locals always know the best places where to eat, the hidden spots far from the crowds of tourists and they can help you to see the city from a different perspective.
How Can You Meet Locals If You Are with WiFi Tribe?
Firstly, you have to get out of your comfort zone: since you are already surrounded by awesome people, you may feel lazy about finding locals to hang out with. You have to be proactive and don’t wait for something to happen, just make it happen, because the weeks will go by quickly.
Secondly, don’t feel you have to stay with the Tribe every day and every night. It’s good and proper that you take some time for yourself or for hanging out with different people, finding a fair balance.
Where Do You Find Local People?
1. Just look around
You can be in a cafe working on your laptop, in a supermarket or at a club, but you are always surrounded by locals. Ask them recommendations, make a comment or simply be kind with them and you will be surprised by how it’s easy to make new friends. And, if you are in Latin America, even better: people are very warm and welcoming with foreigners.
During the chapter in Ecuador, we were on a bus on our way back from a weekend trip to Mindo and I randomly started talking with a girl sitting next to me, Salomé. She turned out to be very interesting and knowledgeable about Ecuadorian culture and history. We hung out many times during the month and she took me to the best breweries in Quito, explaining to me the political situation, why there are so many street vendors and how it’s difficult for her and her girlfriend to live together in such traditional culture.
2. Ask a friend for an introduction
If you are in a country where a friend of you has already been, probably he met some locals. Don’t be afraid of asking if he can put you in touch with them!
My real first local experience, the one that gave me the reason for travelling, started just like that. My friend Zoe lived in Peru for a few months and, when she wrote me on Facebook introducing me her Peruvian friend Carolina, I wasn’t really keen on meeting her. The Peruvian chapter had just started and I still had to meet many people of the Tribe. Anyway, I forced myself to get out of my laziness and I invited her out for a beer.
When Carolina started to tell me her story, I was astonished and intrigued: her father is from the Awajun people, an indigenous tribe living far from the society in the Peruvian Amazon jungle, suffering from hunger and with awful medical conditions. The Awajun are a warlike people and consider the white man to be a demon: no one from the outside can visit their village and they had many fights with police for the control of their sacred mountains, which ended with machete blows. Carolina’s mother was a nurse from Lima and she managed to win their confidence, living with them and eventually falling in love with her father.
During the following weeks, she introduced me to even more friends, we went to eat in very local restaurants, we danced Salsa and Reggaeton in bohemian clubs, attended concerts of local bands and ate street food in places away from the traditional tourist-filled areas of the city.
3. Use Couchsurfing’s Hangout Section
As a traveller, I’m sure you know Couchsurfing, the community of hospitality exchange that allows you to stay for free at the houses of locals. Well, Couchsurfing is not just that.
Only in the mobile app, you can find a section called “Hangout” where you can propose something you want to do, and see a feed of all the people available to hang out around you. You can wait for someone to join you or you can join activities suggested by other people. Either way, a chat will open and you will be able to write them and make plans for a trip on the weekend or a beer in the evening.
When I was in Cordoba during a gap week, I wanted to do a trip outside of the city and I published it in the Hangout section. A local, Hernan, contacted me and it turned out that he wanted to do exactly the same and he had a car! We spent the entire Sunday together, driving to nice towns, hiking, eating Argentinian asado and drinking mate. He was so nice and kind, willing to explain to me everything about Argentina and giving me recommendations of places to visit.
The same night, back from the trip, Xime, an Argentinian girl that I had never met in my life before, invited me to have dinner at her place with her boyfriend. She cooked homemade empanadas for me, and we talked the whole night.
4. Join a meetup or an event
Another way of meeting locals is by joining events where locals go. Almost in every big city, you can find some language exchange events, that locals join because they want to practice their English and tourists go in order to practice the local language. Usually, you put a sticker on your shirt with the language you master and the one you want to learn and it’s very easy to make new friends, as the goal of the event is meeting people.
You can find local events in Facebook groups, Meetup.com and the event section of Couchsurfing.
When I was in Brazil with the Tribe, some of us went to the official Couchsurfing meetup and we met many nice locals, which we kept hanging out with for the next weeks.
5. Use Tinder
You may see Tinder just as a mean to hook up for a one night stand. Of course, that and finding your soul mate are the main purposes, but why not using it in order to create friendships and bonds with locals?
You can be very transparent from the beginning, starting from your profile description: explain that you are a digital nomad, traveling from country to country and that you are just looking for a local who can show you the city and exchange culture and experiences in front of a cold beer.
And, who knows, maybe you will find a reason for coming back soon!
Traveling with WifiTribe is amazing, but I think it’s really worth it only if you also understand a bit more the culture and the people of the country where you are.
Of course, if you can speak their language, meeting locals is way easier, also because “if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” (Nelson Mandela)
Daniele is a remote Web Developer, currently travelling with WifiTribe in Latin America for a full year. He loves to meet local people and learn about different cultures. You can follow his adventures on his travel blog or on Instagram!