How do other people live? This question is probably as old as humanity itself. We want to know what other people do, eat, watch, read and experience – that’s why we are signed up for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. According to the social comparison theory, comparing ourselves to others helps us evaluate and define ourselves.
Watching strangers for pleasure
This is probably also one of the reasons why projects like Humans of New York, Portraits of Boston and the like have become such a huge success, with millions of followers, best selling books and countless mentions in the media. There is a giddy and guilty pleasure in looking at a picture of a stranger and reading his or her random thoughts and stories. You get a glimpse into the life of somebody else and a tiny part of their story. Many people also confess that they like to just sit in a café or shopping mall and watch other people: What they wear, how they walk and where they go. It’s social science!
Taking it a bit further
If you really want to get down to business and discover how other people live, there are a few special travel experiences that offer you exactly that: To spend some time with natives, people with a different ethnic or religious background or simply folks who live a different life than yours. In a mix of curiosity, humbleness and philantrophy, you can explore these offers for a deeper understanding of a place and its people. Low-impact tourism actually helps them to live a sustainable and secure life and to maintain their traditions and culture!
North America: Join the Amish Experience
There are several providers in Pennsylvania, USA, who offer trips to the Amish Country, where you can find out about the Amish lifestyle and culture first hand. Travellers are allowed to explore the countryside on a horse and buggy, buy produce from traditional farms and even visit homes, where you get to chat with the owner without the distraction of TVs or cell phones.
South America: Meet the Huaorani in Ecuador
The hunter-gatherers of the Huaorani tribe live in the rainforest along the Amazon. Their chief partnered up with a local travel company to employ his villagers as guides for tourists – they even built an ecolodge with five cabins as a base for their trips. The indigenous guides will teach you a great deal about the local wildlife, how to use plants for clothes, shelter and medicine and how to climb up trees and fire poisoned darts from blowpipes to hunt animals.
Oceania: Take a Maori Tour in New Zealand
Local Maoris will show you around in authentic Maori villages and accustom you to the traditions, myths and history of the Maori tribe, both ancient and modern. Rub noses with the locals, learn how to weave a basket, join a tribal meeting or cook in earth ovens!
Africa: Live with the Bushmen in Namibia
Nhoma is a small tent camp in the North-East of Namibia, between National Parks and Bushmen villages. Go ahead and stay there to live with the Bushmen, go hunting, learn how to start a fire or make an arrow and join them for traditional games and dances to fall into trance.
Europe: Visit the Sami in Lapland
Reindeer sledding, hiking, fishing, hunting, watching the Northern Lights and sleeping in a traditional tent: That’s what you’ll get when you book a trip to explore the Sami or Lapps culture in Lapland. You can also learn how to throw a lasso and cook a warming meal from what nature has to give.
Asia: Live with Nomads in Mongolia
A ger is a typical Mongolian nomadic tent. When you travel with GerToGer, you go from one tent to the next on a horse or oxcart and spend time with your hosts. They will expect you to help bring in the sheep, milk horses (yes, horses) and learn how to use a bow and arrow.
Taking it back a notch
When visiting other cultures and being taken in by them, it is important to keep in mind that the indigenous people are not an attraction or live in show villages. They welcome you into their homes and lives to teach you about their culture and you should act accordingly.
If you simply want to know how a student lives in Barcelona, or a teacher in Japan, or a manager in India, staying with locals through Couchsurfing, airbnb or HomeStay is always a good way to get to know a culture – although it might not be as inspiring and exciting as the examples above. If you’re travelling on your own, check out how to Make Friends On The Road!
Have fun discovering the different ways people live!
photo 1 Humans of New York
photo 2 Anita Ritenour / Flickr
photo 3 Agencia de Noticias Inter Press Service / Flickr
photo 4 Jessica Rabbit / Flickr
photo 5 Dieter Schütz / pixelio.de
photo 6 Tarja Mitrovic / Flickr
photo 7 John Pannell / Flickr