Mingling with locals definitely brings a foreign destination to life, but there's one thing no local has: your perspective. They will never know that you love cobblestones unless you tell them.
When I was in high school, our family hosted 2 girls from Yokohama, Japan. I showed them Edmonton's main sights, and we compared daily life in Canada and in Japan. One weekend, we took them to the Rocky Mountains. Breathtakingly spectacular, we promised. But unfortunately I knew the five-hour drive all too well: endless horizon-to-horizon wheat fields punctuated by a few grain elevators and random smatterings of cows and horses. It was mind-bogglingly boring.
But the minute we left the city limits, my Japanese friends were glued to their passenger windows. For five hours, they photographed wheat fields, grain elevators, trees, the sky, the clouds and who knows what on earth else. They exclaimed again and again, "the sky! The sky is so big!". I'd never noticed. But when I visited them in Japan, I understood: the sky over Tokyo definitely seemed smaller.
The main tourist attractions are worth seeing, and the locals can add depth to your experience. But share your perspective with them, too. And if your most memorable moments after a day in Rome include the street signs and door knockers, that's okay. Share it with a local and help them see their own city in a different light.
Photo of poetry in the winter sky in Turin by Madeline
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