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How to Know a Local in Nine Cities

This weekend, I was walking in my neighborhood when a family suddenly stepped into my path wielding two sharp questions that forced me to confront a couple of embarrassing issues:

1. I do not speak a lick of Spanish.
2. I don’t actually know where the New York Stock Exchange is, even when I am standing on Wall St.

In that one short exchange, my hopes of becoming a Big Apple Greeter were dashed.

Photo courtesy of IgoUgo member tvordj

I’d been toying with the idea for about a week, after discovering the existence of the Paris Greeters, and then those in cities including New York, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Toronto, and Fairbanks.

Since the best way to see any city is, no doubt, with a local, these programs pair visitors with locals (for free!) to explore sights chosen by the visitors or guide. In addition to seeing a resident’s favorite places and receiving an education about the local transportation system, travelers get to meet someone passionate about his or her city—and might even get a window into local customs and attitudes through conversation that goes beyond a request for directions on the street.

I may not be the best candidate to welcome tourists to New York, but I am really excited about these programs and look forward to signing up the next time I head to one of the cities listed. Would you sign up for a local’s tour—and could you give one?

michelle_doucette

My name: Michelle Doucette

How I earn my keep: I'm an editor at IgoUgo.com.

Favorite way to get around: Some of my favorite trips involved renting cars in foreign countries and driving through the countryside, stopping on whims. You get a feel for the culture away from the big cities and meet interesting people on the road, including, I must admit, an embarrassingly high number of local policemen. I suppose it would be prudent to learn all of the traffic laws ahead of time.

Best meal I've had while traveling: Since a succession of gelato cones probably doesn't count as a meal, my favorite must have been a fresh crabmeat lunch prepared by a St. John sailboat captain while we took a break from snorkeling in the Caribbean. Sharing baklava as the sun came up over Paros, Greece, (while, once again, not technically a meal) was also memorable.

Travel ambitions: Since climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I've figured out that I'd like to keep trekking while traveling. I've got my eyes on epic hikes in Nepal, Bhutan, and Peru.

Comments

Charlie
Reply

This is such a great idea. Most times, you want to get insider information on where the locals go anyway. Aside from hitting whatever more obvious sights you might want to see, this would be a great way to take in a city.
I could give one on New York, and I’d even take one; I think it would be interesting to see where each guide would go. I just hope it includes eating, too.

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