How do you engage with locals? Does technology keep you apart?

How do you make contact with locals? Or maybe you prefer not to, or don’t care?

I first noticed the use of mobile phones separating people from the places they were travelling in on a train in Thailand. A young British couple, were both on their phones were talking to different people back in their homeland.  I found it amazing that they weren’t even looking out the window at the beautiful scenery.

between shows – Bangkok

Of course, there is nothing wrong with keeping in contact with friends and family every now and then – however, it also means you are not living in the now, in the present moment – the very place where life happens.

I guess I’m biased because when I travel, I very rarely contact home – I ‘m always working on the premise that no news is good news :-).

That being so, I’ve noticed in my city, Wellington, New Zealand, that it is harder to engage with locals when you are using a phone to guide you around the streets.  Sure, Google Maps does sort of show you the way, but you get no interaction with the people in the area you are visiting.

South African fan in Cuba Street

Perhaps this doesn’t bother you, but for me, travelling is all about the people I meet; the questions I ask them; the directions I get from them, and knowledge about their lives.

We Kiwi, are considered pretty friendly and when we approach you on the street, especially if you’re looking at a map, we are not trying to sell you anything or take you to our cousins’ shop for instance – we are just trying to be helpful and friendly and help give you a 100% pure Kiwi experience.

(Note: ‘one hundred per cent pure’ was never intended to be about our environment – like everywhere else we too have environmental problems.  The hundred per cent pure was to ensure all tourists got a genuine Kiwi experience and holiday.  Sadly, this was not how it was understood overseas.  Even New Zealanders now claim we are being false in our ‘advertising.’  As an older kiwi – who was travel writing when it was coined – many years ago.  I’m very clear about its original intentions – one of the advantages of age 🙂  )

Lake Tekapo

I frequently ask,  ‘can I help you’ of those who look like tourists and are gazing at their phone or a map.

So, many especially those new into New Zealand I suspect, almost jump back in horror at being spoken to.  ‘Oh no, what does she want!?  Will she rip me off?’  I see it in their faces.  Happily, at least 50% of them value me answering their questions and often thank me for being ‘helpful.’ And hopefully, that little interaction contributes to them enjoying their time in New Zealand and having 100% pure Kiwi experience, and knowing most of us are kind, caring and really want to help – for no reason but to be helpful!

So next time you pull out a phone to find your way from A to B just pause, look around, is there a local to ask instead?


This works from Alaska to Turkey, from Thailand to New Zealand.  It’s the brief connections and a smile or a laugh with a local that can make your day.  Don’t let technology separate you from the very people in the country you wanted to visit.

Have a good day 🙂

Local lads in Maheshwar


Author: Heather - the kiwi travel writer

Nomadic travel-writer, photographer, author & blogger. See more on and Amazon for my books (heather hapeta)

11 thoughts on “How do you engage with locals? Does technology keep you apart?”

  1. Such a great post. Sometimes when we travel, technology disconnects us from the place we are in and its people. Take a digital detox, open your mind and talk to people!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Have a great trip! Connections are the best part of traveling, love that you record content but also limit technology. Looking forward to seeing the rest of your travels!


  3. Happy to have not stuck my head in my phone when I met you guys at the ferry pier in Wan Chai 🙂 It was a pleasure to meet you – hope Chung King Mansion treated you guys well throughout the whole stay :p and have an amazing rest of the trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When u go to Halong bay remember bring food and water❤️❤️❤️ Wish you have a happy journey❤️❤️ I’m one of the girls you met this morning at Miam Miam coffee and Beach

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Wish u have a happy trip in Vietnam❤️When I was old I wanna go around the world like u and your friend❤️Your friendships is destiny❤️😂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post Heather! Yes, I feel we are too connected to our devices, especially when traveling – the one time we should shed those things and look up, look around! I appreciate a local helping me with directions and recommendations. That is a sure way to get reliable information and learn a few things not found in travel books and certainly not your phone. Plus you get to meet some pretty amazing folks! Thanks for the lovely photos!

    Liked by 1 person

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