With so many Americans now vaccinated against COVID-19, you could be planning a return to travel. One approach is immersive travel.
Immersive travel means that you’re getting to know a location on a much deeper level than you would otherwise as a tourist.
It’s good to first start learning to speak a new language naturally before you plan an immersive trip, and beyond that, the following are specific things to know and tips.
What is Immersive Travel?
First, what is immersive travel?
It’s usually described as experiencing a destination as if you’re a local there. Consider how you live your daily life at home, and then try to apply that to your travels.
For example, instead of staying in a hotel or resort, you would likely choose an apartment in a residential area of your destination rather than one that’s geared toward tourists. You would also ideally give yourself enough time in your destination to get to know it well, and you would take things at a leisurely pace. This is juxtaposed to traditional travel experiences where we often rush through in an attempt to see everything all at once, or in some cases, only stay on the grounds of a resort for the duration of a trip.
An immersive travel experience is one where you take the time in each moment of your travels.
Your senses are always engaged including sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
You’re taking plenty of time to absorb everything that’s around you on an immersive trip. That may mean that you do or see fewer things overall, but you do so in a more meaningful way.
Before you go on an immersive travel experience, you should try to learn as much as you can about the destination itself and pick up as much of the language as you can.
Learning the language can be a key part of immersive travel because it allows you to truly connect with the locals. You can get to know people, order from menus, ask questions and go to local markets.
The more you can learn before a trip, also the more you’re going to be prepared to absorb once you’re there.
You’ll already have a basis of understanding for some of the elements of history and culture for your destination, and you’ll have a starting point as far as what you want to learn more about.
When you go to a new place and you have no knowledge of it or understanding of the history and culture, it can be overwhelming. That can lead to overload that creates the exact opposite of immersion.
The following are some of the components of planning an immersive trip to keep in mind:
- Try to choose a neighborhood that’s residential but still centrally located. You want to be close to key sites, but not in strictly tourist districts. If you’re going somewhere with a rich historical background, it can make a world of difference to walk outside of an apartment and feel like you’re in the midst of that history. Being in a pedestrian-friendly location is helpful too, as opposed to getting a taxi and fighting against traffic to see anything.
- When you’re choosing an apartment, try to find one that has the features that lend themselves to immersion. For example, you want an apartment that has a good kitchen so that you can go to local markets and prepare meals with fresh ingredients.
- Try to avoid acting like a tourist. That can be easier said than done but do your best. You want to be able to interact with locals and follow some of their customs. For example, in many places around the world, people eat dinner much later than they do in the U.S., and it’s a much longer, more leisurely-paced meal. Try to remember that and adjust your schedule accordingly.
- Even if you don’t know a language fluently where you’re traveling, if you can use some key phrases and greetings, that can go a long way to make the locals feel more comfortable around you, and they’re more likely to welcome you.
The Benefits of Immersive Travel
There are so many benefits of an immersive travel experience, some of which include:
- Even if you’ve formally or informally studied a language, living where it’s spoken can help you gain a deeper understanding of it and how to contextually use that language properly. Classroom learning is great, but nothing replicates being surrounded by people who speak it. You’re forced to use the language skills you might have already built, and that’s a good thing.
- You can meet more people and form human connections with other travelers and locals alike when you take the time for immersion. When you travel in the traditional way, you may feel rushed, and you may only stick to those comfortable tourist areas, never really coming in contact with local people.
- An immersive travel experience will be like no one else’s. It’s completely unique to you, unlike what you might experience if you travel in a more traditional way, where everything is pre-planned and pre-packaged.
- When you gain a new perspective in any way in your life, you can take what you learned and apply it to other areas. For example, maybe you learn something during your travels that you could apply to your business or career.
Another term that you could use to describe immersive travel is slow tourism. What it means is that you slow down so that you have more time in any one location, creating a meaningful connection.
You’re focusing on quality in your travels instead of quantity.
You’re not just likely to learn more this way, but you can truly start to disconnect and relax in a way that we sometimes forget is such an important benefit of travel in general.
If you have the opportunity to give it a try when you’re planning your next trip, consider elements of immersion.