Home is where the holiday is

Dispel travelling woes by making friends with locals before embarking on your trip

Travel is, by definition, dislocating, a condition that the trend towards experiential travel and the connectivity provided by the Internet aim to ease.

"The first question is whether you should feel at home while you're away," said Mr Tom Hall, editorial director for Lonely Planet guidebooks.

"That feeling of difference is one of the joys of travel, as with it comes the invisibility to explore and to learn simply by being somewhere." he added.

Yet, even seasoned travellers can experience discomfort. "Although you may be going for pleasure, you're out of your routine and that can speed up your body and mind to act differently," said Dr Patricia Thornton, a psychologist in Manhattan and a member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Travel can induce anxiety when trips fail to meet expectations or do not go as planned, as when a bucket-list museum is closed.

Anxiety-prone people may have a hard time making decisions. Remove them in small ways, such as travelling with only a carry-on, which reduces wardrobe choices and worries about lost luggage.

Having contacts in a city can help. Social media allows for people to make friends before leaving home.

"I'm big on trying to find friends of friends. It's a good way to get an inside look at a city," said Ms Kelley Louise, executive director of Travel & SocialGood, a non-profit focused on sustainable tourism. She recommends groups such as GirlsLoveTravel and Wanderful.

To feel more at home, try out the local lifestyle by staying in a non- touristy neighbourhood, eating outside of hotels and using public transportation.

These options can help travellers feel more at home while they are away.

STAY WITH LOCALS

The original bed-and-breakfast model is built on personal interaction with the homeowner. That has, for the most part, been amplified in the sharing economy through home accommodation services such as Airbnb and Couchsurfing.

The more remote the destination, the greater the likelihood of bunking with a local.

There are no hotels on the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific, for example.

Instead, visitors can choose from 12 homestay options in the rugged destination with a population of about 50.

HOMEMADE MEALS

Invitations to dinner with strangers - for a fee - pour forth from services such as EatWith, which offers home meals made by locals in more than 200 cities.

A recent search on the site turned up loads of enthusiastic amateurs and a few professional chefs who were veterans of Michelin-starred restaurants.

EXPLORE WITH RESIDENTS

Internet booking platforms meet local expertise in the entrepreneurial boom of touring companies led by local residents. Ms Nancy Blaine left book publishing in 2015 to found Local Expeditions, a service based in Brooklyn that features walking and biking tours devised by independent guides, with a portion of the proceeds earmarked for local charities.

She said 90 per cent of the guides worked for other tour companies, but through Local Expeditions, they get to design and lead their own tours in areas that interest them, from biking around the Dumbo neighbourhood to photographing Coney Island. Tours range from US$20 (S$28) to US$60.

"I love to tell people where to go. It kind of breaks my heart when first-timers go to Times Square and miss TriBeCa," she said.

LEARN A NEW HOBBY

Group gatherings may forgo the sights entirely, but unite people with similar passions.

The website, Meetup.com, compiles group activities such as practising a foreign language, knitting and political organising.

Travel services may even spark a new hobby.

Starting this month in Ottawa, Ontario, Xpeeria.com links visitors to local practitioners of everything from beekeeping and computer coding to drone piloting and sailing.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 09, 2017, with the headline 'Home is where the holiday is'. Print Edition | Subscribe