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?

Alaska

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

 

Mt Denali, Alaska

Alaska is a great place to visit

I get a great view of this shy mountain

In Denali National Park I climb aboard the park bus and get taken further into the park. Mt. Denali is a shy mountain and shows her head rarely. Over the past month, she has hidden herself for 25 out of the 31 days but today she exposes her lofty top.

Books I’ve read about Alaska tell of bears eating willow and I wonder where the trees are. The tundra is covered with short scrubby bush and plants and I’m amazed when I’m told that these 6-inch high shrubs are willows: stunted by the weather, the trees I was expecting did not exist.

I don’t walk far before I see a bear. I freeze. She has two cubs with her. I’m petrified, excited and amazed all at the same time and I sink to my knees to watch. Mum is large; her cubs are like bundles of lard, roly-poly and cuddly looking. She looks towards me, almost nonchalantly and I remain very still, hardly daring to breathe, while the cubs seem to have no worries. I discard my plans for hiking – I can walk any day and prefer to sit and watch. A herd of caribou runs over the hill, a perfect silhouette for a photo and the tiny plants and berries fascinate me. Mostly I just watch the bears.

Too soon it’s time to return to the main camp and, silently, I gloat over the people on the bus who didn’t see any wildlife: as I recount my tale over dinner, I realise I hadn’t rung my bell. The next day Denali is hidden, so content myself with crunching over yellow leaves and admiring the cottonwood trees with their straight white trunks, closer to park headquarters. see more photos here

Written after a month-long trip in Alaska some years ago!

bells peel out in new zealand to welcome a bird back

web cathedral and chalice The very first feathered signs of spring arriving in my city have landed.

The Anglican Cathedral bells ring to welcome the  Eastern bar-tailed godwits as they arrive back in Christchurch ( New Zealand) from Alaska.

This annual, non stop epic journey of some 80 thousand godwits migrating back to their breeding grounds here – from the Alaska Arctic Tundra – are warmly welcomed by the ringing of the bells ( hand bell ringers too). This journey of 11,500 kms is usually flown non-stop and usually takes about six days!

Every year we locals farewell them from our shores and when they return the catherdral bells peel out to welcome them back to their summer feeding grounds here on the Ihutai/Avon- Heathcote estuary such a short distance the centre of our city.

godwits coming in to roost beside the black and white oyster catchers
godwits coming in to roost beside the black and white oyster catchers

godwits leave new zealand for alaska

the sand dunes are alive with bird watchers
the sand dunes are alive with bird watchers

Tonight (11th Februarary 2009) I joined  hundreds of other people  from Christchurch, New Zealand

,

TV and radio come to record the godwits too
TV and radio come to record the godwits too

to farewell the Eastern bar-tailed godwits as they prepare to go back to Alaska.  This annual migration back to their breeding grounds in the Alasaka Arctic Tundra.

Every year we locals farewell them from our shores and when they return the catherdral bells peel out to welcome them back to their summer feeding grounds here on the Ihutai/Avon- Heathcote estuary such a short distance the centre of our city.

godwits coming in to roost beside the black and white oyster catchers
godwits coming in to roost beside the black and white oyster catchers

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