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Going Native: Travel Like the Locals Do

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Vagabond Kids: Going Native: Travel Like the Locals Do

Monday, August 16, 2010

Going Native: Travel Like the Locals Do

One of the best evenings we had this trip back to the US was an evening being local. There were no amusement parks, no hotels, no fancy restaurants or reservations of any sort. We didn't really plan it out, there was not a tourist map in sight. No guidebooks or pre-scheduled activities. It was just a group of great people, a field, fresh fruit and good music and one amazing night.

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is magical. Long days with evenings that cool off, twilight lingers until 10pm and you have the amazing sense of peace and wonderment around you. What a tourist might do in Portland is to head downtown and check out one of the amazing clubs. Kids with families will hit the zoo, Omsi and walk down waterfront park. Tourists might escape to the beach, or drive up to the mountains. They might hit Oaks Park or do a fair, but there is lots-lots-more. Those hidden gems that every city has and the locals know them all.

Tourists and locals alike will stroll the aisles late into the night of the best independent bookstore in the world (Powell’s). Tourists and locals hit the farmers markets and Saturday Market. Tourists marvel at the late evening sun, but locals, those smart locals know that summer is fleeting. Summer passes far too fast, summer is something to be savored, sucked dry for every single second wasting none of it, summer is to be enjoyed now!

Listening to the tunes

Locals in Portland have a secret. One of the best ways to enjoy one of those summer nights is the Thursday evening concerts at Kruger’s farm on Sauvies’ Island. I first read about Kruger’s concerts long after I left Oregon by following Alicia Paulson’s Blog Pozy Gets Cozy. Alicia, a new Oregonian (which by my definition is someone not born there) had found what natives knew all along, it is about the company you keep, the local food and the local music scene that make Portland special. Her posts about Kruger's make me hunger for that local scene.

Having tried to go to Kruger’s on our last trip home, but unable to find the time, this summer I was determined to go. I had never heard of the singer, but when you tell the kids it is time for a concert and oh yeah you can pick blueberries…they were in. We set off, picnic foods in hand, met my sister and her family as well as our “Taiwan friends” Peter and Blythe and their family for an evening of music food and fun.

Sadie and her watermelon

What makes travel exciting is the unexpected finds, the spots that you see and know are special, these spots are often those loved more by the locals than the tourist. The local bakery down a side street that no tour bus has ever traveled. The local brewpub, up far in the hills that is filled with regulars who know the name of the barkeep as well as the tavern cat. The local scene is filled with a comfortable feeling of "I have been here, this is good and I will return". A tourist is often more interested in capturing the shot for the photo album (yes I am guilty of this) but slowing down and seeing things with a native gives such a deeper appreciation.

I still consider myself a native Oregonian (although I have taken a 12 year vacation from my home state) and I also consider myself a local Singaporean. My goal is to impress upon my children the joys of seeing things from a local perspective, speaking with and connecting with the citizens of those places we travel rather than simply taking a picture. Exploring deeper, stepping down the side alley, being native and when we stop traveling we can say we went native.

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