013 | Untourism. How to travel like a local

The experience of living like a local. Unearthing hidden gems that benefit the local people and environment.

Untourism is the experience of living like a local.  Unearthing hidden gems that benefit the local people and environment, as opposed to commercial tourism.  It’s also the experience of being a tourist in your own community.  

Untourists avoid trendy or popular destinations or attractions often because people are flocking to them in response to targeted advertising.  

It’s a form of independent, authentically curated experiences while travelling.  The experience is less of a vacation and more of an immersion. Differences in norms are not threats, rather invitations for discovery.  

How does this differ from traditional tourism?
-Tourists might seek insights from a guidebook, enjoy specific amenities and the comforts of home.  

-Untourists are more likely to ask a local for insights, and are looking for what makes that community unique.  They are more likely to frequent small businesses and mom & pop restaurants over a well-known chain.  

I’m not anti-tourism for the record. It started as a tourist lens, I always felt our expectations where being defined by companies with big marketing budgets and have slowly started opting out of those for a more authentic experience, also some affordable options that didn’t require admission. Through this journey we have also been exposed to socially-conscious experiences that support the local environment and community. Small business that make up the fabric of that local community. Create an experience around the assets of that community. 

-2013 first Airbnb experience in west seattle (not staying in hotels)

-Salmon fishing in Alaska 

-Cleveland, sea glass on the beach

-swim in a creek that flows into Umqua river in Southern Oregon (pictured above) 

-Powder Mountain ski mountain in Utah

– feels like National Parks are becoming touristy, so within those locations how do we create a deeper, off the beaten path. something like 53 waterfalls in Yellowstone. We were one of few who hiked to Moose Falls. 

-brown sign adventures (referenced in episode 004 Magic of Micro-Experiences)

Thanks to a listener, a brown sign is technically a RECREATIONAL AND CULTURAL INTEREST AREA SIGN that “marks a recreational or cultural interest areas are attractions or traffic generators that are open to the general public for the purpose of play, amusement, or relaxation. Recreational attractions include such facilities as parks, campgrounds, gaming facilities, and ski areas, while examples of cultural attractions include museums, art galleries, and historical buildings or sites.

The purpose of recreation and cultural interest area signs is to guide road users to a general area and then to specific facilities or activities within the area.”

-N. Cali Brown Sign (waterfall) McArthur Burney Falls

– Savannah: known for its architecture and history so we created our own scavenger hunt to find as many differ types of doors and road textures. Made a photo collage page in our scrapbook.

Activity based untourism experiences such as swimming beach, pool, swimming hole: 

   -St. Louis- local swimming pool with splash pad and waterpark style experience.

   – “Google: Best Beach in Wisconsin” ended up being North Beach in Racine Wi. Turned it into a long weekend adventure. Bikes on the bike path, Coffee and gelato.

   – children’s beach in LaJolla CA. Unexpected adventure needed something to do after our plans fell through. Seals came up and started swimming right with the people and sunning themselves on the coves. 

  -snorkeling with leopard sharks in late summer early fall right off the beaches in San Diego (Melissa Langerquist)

   – natural waterslide in Sequoia National monument. 

How do you find these untourist experiences: 

  1. I don’t look for any paid advertising for that area (go to page 2 of google search), We don’t typically use any CVB resources- usually requires a marketing budget. 
  2. Google business reviews (for small businesses are helpful) I generally look at the reviews!
  3. Ask your network- Friends, colleagues and strangers all love to share their favorite experiences.  The Ordinary Sherpa Facebook group is also an excellent resource.  

Listener Challenge: Design your Local Untourist experience that you would suggest to other friends or families.  As a guide I like to start with one adventure within 100 miles from where you live that costs less than $20.  I’d love to see what you come up with.  Email me your local untourist guide at: Heidi@ordinarysherpa.com to potentially be a guest on an upcoming episode.

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