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The gift of meeting local people on your adventure holiday

Last summer I had a knock on my door. To my surprise, when I answered I found a Maasai herdsman in full regalia, spear in hand, standing my doorstep. "Habari!", he said. "Nimeamua nataka kuishi katika mtaa wako kwa miezi michache". Or some such words. Of course I couldn't understand him but with the help of Google Translate we figured it out.

"I have decided I want to live in your neighbourhood for a few months".

A strange encounter indeed

Of course I made this up. But you'd be surprised. I get the occasional phone call from starry-eyed would-be explorers who want to "live with a tribe" (their words) for a few months. Imagine the surprise of an African villager when she has a similar experience as my imaginary one.

And yet.

And yet there are ways to experience local culture in a deeper meaningful way than the average tourist might.

Take Morocco for example. Most tour operators will show you the highlights: the tanneries in Fez, the imperial palaces, the Djemaa-el-Fna in Marrakesh, a camel ride in the desert. Independent travellers will not do much better - they may meet some local people but they are inevitably better-off English speaking people, belonging to the upper class, or those working in the travel industry.

But on my recent tour to Morocco, things were different. We had dinner with a local family in Fez, eating the local specialty, pastilla, a Moroccan pie. We had such a great time we ended the evening learning traditional dances.

Up in the mountains we stopped at a nomad encampment for tea to learn more about their way of life. This was an unscheduled stop - by their nature nomads move around and one never knows if they are going to in your area. As a result the visit felt spontaneous.

Further on we learned how the local speciality dish of medfouna is made (and sampled some of it). We had lunch with a local family living within an old kasbah in the Skoura Valley. Here we enjoyed some regional dishes and had another look inside a typical Moroccan home. And we visited several out-of-the-way local markets to see what was for sale and bargain over our purchases.

And of course we had our local tour leader who always was at the ready to answer our questions and help with translations. He spoke fluent English, Arabic and Tamazight (the language of the Amazigh people, formerly known as Berbers) so wherever we went he was able to interpret.

It was much the same on my trips to Ukraine and Russia (back in the day), Iran and Moldova. I had lots of great encounters with local people and learned a lot about their culture and every day life.

Getting to know how other people live their lives, how they think and feel and makes them tick, is one of the joys of meaningful travel.

Are you ready to give one of those adventure tours a try? Contact us!


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