Travelling for a longer period of time can become a little isolating. You no longer see the same places or people each day as you are not in your own community and are often moving from place to place. Not having grown up in Shrewsbury I never thought that this would be an issue for me when I travelled. I hadn’t felt I’d become particularly attached to Shrewsbury as I didn’t have any youthful ties to the town. But, wandering away from the everyday norms of the Shire has highlighted to me how much I enjoyed the place and community there.
As we have been bouncing from place to place it has become difficult to feel a part of the communities you are visiting. However, along the way we’ve come up with a few different ways to enjoy new places and become part of the community no matter how long you are visiting for.
- Participate in local events
This is great if you are only visiting for a short amount of time as it can often take just a few hours. If you are away when there is a national holiday participating in holiday traditions are a great way of learning about different cultures. Other times events are unique to a particular location. Along our way we’ve enjoyed Halifax Burger Week, outdoor movies and street hockey tournaments, to name a few. Each one is celebrated by locals and tourists alike and show you a different part of the community and culture you are visiting.
- Join or visit the library
I’m a book lover so in places where we’ve stayed for longer periods I’ve become a member of my local library. Not only do you get to enjoy a vast number of books but they often hold amazing events too. I got to flex my trivia knowledge at the library’s Friends trivia nights. Managing 93.5 out of 100 you’d think I would have won but competition was fierce, and I missed out on the trophy. Another bonus is being able to borrow DVD’s. Matt and I have devoured six seasons of Game of Thrones borrowing from the library. However, now I am person 335 in the line for season seven. Noooo!
Volunteering across Canada has given us some great experiences. Using the website www.workaway.info/ Matt and I have helped out at a BnB, a boarding kennel, vineyard and rhubarb farm. By doing so we have been able not only to live within the community but be shown around by the people who live there. Our hosts have all been extremely welcoming and willing to show us their beautiful towns and cities.
- Visit markets
Not only does this one tackle your hunger but is a great way of enjoying local produce. By visiting markets across Canada I’ve been able to appreciate some great treats, bannock being one of my favourites (read about what bannock is here!). In Nanaimo I picked up some red pepper chutney that was great with cheese from a little old lady who goes to market every week selling, pickles, jams and chutney. Yum!
- Join a club
Again, another one if you are staying in one place for a little longer but a fantastic way of making friends in the local area. Matt has joined a football (soccer!) team during both of our long-term house-sitting assignments in both Calgary and Halifax. By doing so, not only has he kept fit, but we’ve had some great team nights out too!
- Visit your local community centre
Canada is great at recreation and the community centre is usually at the heart of this. They bring together people both old and new for a range of activities. Currently my local community centre holds a meal every Friday night which is always absolutely booming. They also have teams for basketball, pickleball, hockey, soccer and baseball. I have enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of the gym there.
- Use independent stores and restaurants
We can sometimes rely on going into stores and buying brands we feel comfortable with. But supporting local businesses is far more than a boost for the tourism industry. They are often completely unique in products, recipes and atmosphere. My favourites have been Red Dog Art Studio in Cherryville on Vancouver Island which showcased many local artists in a colourful store. Restaurant wise there are many that stand out, Vandal Doughnuts, Hali Deli, Black Sheep and Hilltop Diner have been great eats and treats on our journey.
- Chat with the locals
At the end of the day the inhabitants of towns are the soul of the community, they are the ones that create the unique environments which we enjoy visiting. Being a tourist people are always willing to share their personal top tips for the area. By chatting with the locals, you can learn and experience far more than what google can ever tell you and maybe even make a few friends along the way.
How do you get involved with the community whilst travelling? I’d love to hear about your experiences.