The Gathering Place
I love having conversations in the local pub, bar, restaurant or café (seeing a theme here?) about what life is like there and sharing what life is like back home. I firmly believe that, in such a way, travel becomes the experience and not necessarily the place. Language barriers start to fade or are lessened when people are actively engaged in trying to understand and learn about other places and people.
Often times when I arrive in a new location I’m feeling the effects of the Journey getting there. Typically it is multiple time zones difference, there have been flights, trains and/or drives and my body is telling me to get out and about. Streeetch those legs, breathe non-recirculated air, and move. I prefer to choose places where I can mostly walk and see the sights versus having to rent a car, make lots of bus connections or taxi/Uber my way around. It doesn’t always work and it can be grand to stay in more remote locales as well. But, I am typically strolling the streets of my newest location shortly after arriving. It is a great way to start off your Travel Fitness routine too!
The walks help me orient on the city, scout out what looks interesting to visit, figure out where grocery stores are and find the local pub, tavern, alehouse, café, saloon, bar – I think you get the picture! They are one of the primary gathering places in many locations throughout the world. My tendency is towards taverns to chat up the bartender, learn about the local beverages, hear first hand about things to see and do, and watch and meet the locals.
Crossing the Threshold
As you walk in, it isn’t only the look of the place, it’s the sounds of the conversations and the smells of the brews and food (if they have any). All of it comes together and helps shape how you feel about it. My style is almost always jeans, boots, hat and button down shirt. When I walk into a bar in most foreign locales it’s obvious I am not from around here. As soon as I open my mouth and say “hello” in whatever the local language is, that’s when the fun really begins! I ask the bartender to tell me about their local beverages and any recommendations. I want them to know I am not just there to have whatever I had in the last place.
As much as possible, I try to get a spot at the bar so I can interact with people more directly. People usually like to know where you’re from, why you are there and what you are going to do whilst there. They love to be able to tell you about their town, the people, sites to see, and often the cultural nuances. That is when I get really excited because I’m hearing it direct from someone and not just reading or researching it!
There is always so much more to a place that you can learn about from the people that live there. Often times that is over a lovely pint of the local brew the bartender recommended. Sometimes it is whisky, wine or myriad other beverages – but more often than not, it is a nice beer of one form or another. It acts as a lubricant for the social interaction and often has fascinating history and lore surrounding it. It has been a rare occasion where I have not been able to share a pint and hear stories that hook your imagination and curiosity.
Often folks want to hear what your story is, what things are like where you’re from, and if what they’ve heard about it is really true. I’m certainly not a social anthropologist and don’t know for certain what they would say about “gathering places” and why they are such a part of our social fabric. My Journeys have certainly proven that people like to gather at ‘watering holes’, connect, trade stories, gather information, bond and generally enjoy themselves with a nice beverage.
Taste the Moment
Picture yourself in a pub somewhere far off. Close your eyes and think about the sound of people talking, glasses moving on tables, laughter and good discussion. The smell of the pint sitting in front of you. The taste of it as you take your first sip of the local favorite. A smile spreads across your face. It’s new, different than ‘back home’. Often it’s brilliant or perhaps it mightn’t be what you prefer or lean towards – but you just got an amazing sensory experience of that place! Drink it in from all your senses and enjoy the moment. Strike up a conversation with a local and learn about where you are outside of a guide book description.
Enjoy the Journey!