When I went to São Paulo, Brazil, last year, I loved it—in good part because I didn’t have to do anything. (Quick: name a tourist attraction in São Paulo.) The trip made me realize that I’m increasingly uninterested in traditional sightseeing. In Rio de Janeiro, I didn’t bother to visit Sugarloaf Mountain or Christ the Redeemer. In Rome, I took one look at the throngs of people outside the Colosseum and went for gelato instead. I didn’t make it to the Louvre until my fourth trip to Paris, and I went then only because my sister was with me (for her first time in the city). Lucky for me, my sister turned out to be a sightskipper, too—we left after 45 minutes.
I’m not saying I’ll never visit another major attraction again, but more and more, I don’t feel compelled the way I used to. Too often, depending on where you are, you end up surrounded by other travelers, and who wants that? I accept that I’m a visitor, but I don’t want to be reminded of it.
Instead, I like to go where the locals are—their neighborhoods, their restaurants, their shops. I may miss some good stuff, but I just want to have a travel experience that’s mine and mine alone, something that’s near impossible if I go to the same places as everyone else. The best way to the heart of a destination is to explore the everyday side of life there. By pretending you live somewhere, you can discover the minutiae that make one place different from every other. Here are 10 new rules for traveling.