The Key to Seeing a New City Like a Local, According to Full-time Travelers
It's all in the timing.
For a lucky few, traveling isn’t just a passion or a hobby, but rather a full-time job that happens to come with a whole lot of perks.
On a recent excursion to Paris to check out the inaugural sail of U by Uniworld’s new river cruise, I was lucky enough to spend a few days onboard surrounded by professional travelers hailing from all over the globe.
While chatting on the upper deck as the boat sat docked in the Seine River, just beneath the looming presence of the Eiffel Tower, I asked each of them about their experiences and what they love most about their dream gigs. Quickly, a pattern emerged as they all discussed how much they loved traveling to not only see the sights but to also truly immerse themselves in a brand new culture.
And the best way to do it, these intrepid travelers shared, is to make sure to venture out into a city at night.
That, each of these pros said, is the best way to see a place come alive, to experience its finest foods, and to put down your camera and just live in the moment. Keep scrolling to read more on why these five professional travelers think you need to make your next trip an all-nighter.
“I think when you’re traveling, there’s so much of your day that can be taken up by doing sort of tourist things like tours, going to sites that others told you to go to, but at night often a city opens itself up to you in a different way and you can really see the soul of the city at night. Whether it’s taking a walk in Paris, coming upon a brasserie at one in the morning that happens to be the the only place open and eating French onion soup and being the only English speaker there.
Recently I went to Nashville and went to a honky tonk at an old VFW that was a local-only hangout. You get such a better sense of a soul of a city at night doing that than you do during the day going to a tourist thing. Having that sense of discovery is why you travel in the first place.”
“My favorite thing to do when I travel is hang out with locals. You want to go out, you want to be with people, you want to do the things that people who live there do and at home when you think of that you know that the life comes out at night. Definitely there are things you want to see during the day, but I feel like the dynamic of the city can change at night.
Different things come to life, people are different, things are different, things even taste different. And there’s something just about the lights and the way that just feels. I think there’s a different level of comfort in that setting. You can let go a little bit and feel like you can immerse yourself a little bit more. In a dark bar you can become a part of it in a way that’s a little bit cooler. For a minute you can just pretend.”
“Seeing a city at night allows you to be more interactive with the locals as they are finished work for the day so you’re going to get to experience the bars and restaurants as the locals do. And then, maybe a bit more obviously, but a lot of cities have light shows, for instance; Paris definitely sparkles at night a little bit more. It has a certain mystique that you don’t get during the day."
“I think as a traveler you are very open to every experience in every city. After being in a few cities now, I like to stay there for at least a few weeks so I can feel what it’s like to live in a place. And a lot of cities have two very different personalities in the daytime and the nighttime and if you find yourself in the right area in the nighttime it can often be a game changing experience. It can sell you [on a] city. Some of the most vibrant cities and countries I’ve been to come alive in a new way at nighttime.”
“We like to get a local perspective whenever we travel and it’s the most concentrated at night when you’re able to live like a local does and go out like they do. Even for us, when we give people recommendations for visiting our home city of San Francisco we’re always giving them dinner options, nighttime options, just to kind of give a taste beyond the daytime touristy things. It really opens it up to allowing you to get what a real local might do.
During the day there’s such a fast paced nature to getting things done that by the time the night rolls around you’re in this mode to just live and experience... It’s really more about experiencing things. You shut off and stop documenting so much and allow yourself to actually immerse yourself in the culture. You definitely put away the camera a little bit and live a little more.”