Before I say anything further, I feel that I should say this: I am NOT by any means trying to belittle other travel styles or using the term “tourist” in a demeaning way. Traveling is all about personal preference and you should do what you are most comfortable with and will enjoy. If you prefer all-inclusive resorts, that’s great! To each their own.
However, staying at an all-inclusive hotel is not typically my style (not to say I wouldn’t try it someday) and I prefer to stay in more budget-friendly accommodation. Not to mention, I typically spend my days out exploring for 12 hours and mainly need a place to rest my head.
Now that does not mean I am not considered a “tourist” because of my travel style. I still strive to see all of the “touristy sights” I can during my travels (without burning myself out). And I know that I typically stand out as a “tourist” in most places with my red hair and bulky camera in hand, wandering aimlessly.
Having recently been offered a new job and being able to take some time off, I decided to book a spontaneous, shorter trip to our neighboring country of Mexico. I personally chose the Yucatan Peninsula, not for the resorts and partying, but for the Mayan history and architecture.
I was a little nervous traveling to this region as a solo female traveler who seldom parties, wondering if I would stand out from all the tourists and be able to enjoy myself in a touristy area. The answer is: yes! Regardless of your travel style, you can explore touristy areas at a more local level.
Book an AirBNB (even if it’s only for a night or two)
This was my very first experience renting a room through AirBNB and it was most certainly a positive one! I chose to rent a private room from a family living in Playacar. During my stay, I had my own private bathroom and access to the community swimming pool and tennis courts! My host family was very nice and friendly, being of assistance whenever needed as well as giving me privacy.
The home was located in a safe neighborhood, close walking distance to the center of Playa del Carmen. Not only was I able to meet new people by staying with a host family, I was able to feel more like a local.
Wander away from your accommodation
I cannot stress this one enough! Even if it is just for one day out of your vacation, exploring somewhere new away from your accommodation can lead to a cultural and exciting experience! When traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, I made it a priority to book a few day trips away from the beaches to see Chichen Itza and Tulum, to learn more about the Mayan culture. And I am so grateful that I did because I was able to learn more about the ruins and marvel at something greater than myself.
Support more local businesses!
This can be from eating at local restaurants to booking activities and group tours run by locals. I know for me personally, I would rather know that my money is directly helping the locals by supporting their businesses as well as participate in group tours that focuses on education and preservation of culture.
My tour to Chichen Itza with Ekinox Tours was a wonderful way to see this well-known landmark, as well as learn more about the history and Mayan culture.
No matter what your travel style is, it can be fun and exciting to experience a new culture outside of your resort, as well as supporting the local community.