Why Travel Is About More Than Clichés And Selfies

Why Travel Is About More Than Clichés And Selfies

Exploration has driven humans to expand to new frontiers for millennia. The pull of the unseen and the unknown has been enough to convince intrepid travelers to give up the comforts of home and set out for the great beyond.

The problem is, the great beyond now seems to be filled with selfie sticks and tour buses.

travel tourists selfie sticks

I stood in line for my first passport at the not-so-tender age of 19 because I could feel the idea of travel weighing upon me. But never having left my home country, that same idea felt completely out of reach. The passport booklet, filled with its 40 pristine pages, was the essential first step to seeing the world that lay beyond the boundaries of my hometown.

To break in my new found freedom, I booked a trip to Italy. The 10-day tour took us from the canals of Venice, through the Renaissance streets of Florence, and straight into the picture-perfect ancient mishmash of modern Rome.

Everything was new, exciting, and borderline infuriating.

travel tourists tours crowd

Here’s why: around every corner was yet another line for yet another monument. The sites themselves were stunning, but being forced to wait behind throngs of tourists destroyed some of the grandeur.

Our attempts at dining sometimes fared no better. White-aproned hosts beckoned to us with tempting English language menus, but we left the red-checkered tables unconvinced we had really been served authentic home cooking.

We walked the cobblestones streets wondering if this was really what travel was all about – selfies and social media check-ins.

travel tourists food pasta

Following that fateful trip, I have since moved to Rome and stood in line at the embassy to add more pages to that same passport. On a plane or a train nearly every two weeks, I have realized that there will always be other tourists.

However, I prefer to leave them to the bucket list sites and chart my own path in every new city.

Dare to say yes

Travelling has taught me that a lot of the experience is about taking a risk and saying yes. Yes to the plane tickets, yes to the off-the-beaten track neighborhood, and yes to the invitations to see sites that are off the beaten path.

That was why I said yes to the lunch invitation from the front desk girl at my hostel in Marrakesh. One hour and one horse-and-cart ride later, we were watching her brother’s wedding video, sipping mint tea and eating couscous with her entire family in their 800-year-old Berber home.

Able to communicate mainly through pointing and smiles, it was one of the best meals of my life.

travel tourists morocco

Wandering through countries and continents, I have learned that I prefer to skip the typical guidebook must-sees and take a seat at the table. And food is undeniably the best gateway into a new city.

The dinner table is where you go to be nourished, but also where you can learn the norms of a new culture, including how to fare la scarpetta (sop up the sauce) at the end of your homemade pasta dinner.

travel tourists home cooked food pasta

The flavors on the plate in front of you represent the history and traditions of a given place. At the same time, each meal is a chance to simultaneously make very new and very modern real-world connections.

This simple travel tip holds true away from the table as well. I have found that the best place to feel the pulse of a city is at the market rather than at a museum. While you will find few Romans waiting in line at the Vatican, I guarantee you will find every local sitting down for a meal each day. The next step is to be invited to join them.

Social media (and selfies) keep us connected to home while traveling, but it is the unpretentious of act of eating that makes the experience of escape more unique.  That’s why my FOMO (fear of missing out) has more to do with tracking down a rare craft beer than it does with a major monument.

travel tourists tours colosseum

Plus, everyone knows that the best way to see the Colosseum is from a private dining room table.

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Tired of doing the typical touristy stuff? Go beyond clichés and selfies in your travels by dining in a home restaurant instead. 

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Here’s The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling

Social Dining: The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling

If you’ve watched enough TV shows, you’ll know that solitary confinement is one of the worst punishments a prison can dole out to its wayward captives. They were invented with the purpose of rehabilitating and disciplining prisoners who had stepped out of line.

23 hours a day spent staring at four walls, though, proved to be too much for inmates – or any human being, for that matter. Research conducted in 1951 studying the effects of such isolation nearly drove its subjects mad. Not one of the students, who stayed in “small chambers equipped with only a bed for an experiment on sensory deprivation,” could last more than seven days.

The initial plan had been to observe them for six weeks.

Here’s The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling

Why can’t we stand isolation? Simply put, humans are social beings who are hardwired to be that way. The neocortex in our brains – which facilitates many social functions – is far larger than any other animal on this planet. We need to interact with others.

Understandably, it can be hard to reach out to and make friends with the locals while travelling. Where do you even begin? Simply walking up to locals at random won’t work, because they would likely be suspicious of your intentions.

Here’s The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling

Thanks to the sharing economy, it is a lot easier to interact with locals without seeming shady.

Hop into an Uber, and you’ll get the undivided attention of your driver for the duration of your journey. Rent a room via Airbnb, and voila! you’ll have instant housemates. Book a dinner through BonAppetour, and you can have a taste of authentic local cuisine while making fast friends over a meal.

The tradition of eating together

Meet The Locals: How Social Dining Can Help You Make Friends When Travelling

Dining is inherently a social activity. In fact, the dinner table is traditionally known as a place of community. This is why the age-old tradition of family dining still exists today. It is a safe space where people let their guards down, recounting the day’s events and swapping old and new stories, and connecting with each other.

In her book Eating Together, Alice Julier says that “dining together can radically shift people’s perspectives: It reduces people’s perceptions of inequality, and diners tend to view those of different races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds as more equal than they would in other social scenarios.”

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In short, the dining experience brings everyone to an equal footing as well. Regardless of whether you’re a lawyer, a teacher, or a driver, the simple act of sharing local foods with the person next to you goes a long way in forging friendships and long-lasting bonds.

As the saying goes: “the family that eats together, stays together.” We can just as well say that “friends that eat together, stay together.” This is why BonAppetour encourages travellers to eat with locals.

Making family and friends over a meal

Take travel blogger Ben, for example. Having moved to Barcelona from the UK in 2009, his experience dining at Chef Teresa’s home restaurant, Ben describes, left him “feeling like a local in a new country.”

Here’s The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling

As Ben recounts his lunch experience, it almost feels like he’s with family:

We chatted jovially and sneaked pictures of Teresa and her friend Mirella cooking up a storm in the kitchen. She’d grab our attention from time to time to show us the ingredients of the paella and explain how she’d prepared them.

Teresa piled the paella onto our plates and sat down with us to eat, which again made it feel like a family celebration, and we simmered to a low rumble as we sat pulling the heads off the juicy fat prawns and scooping up the rice with chunks of pan con tomate (bread with tomato, garlic and olive oil).

There’s really nothing like home-cooked food that can warm stomach and hearts alike.

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Natalie, an American who fell in love with Rome, had a quieter but equally intimate time in Sandra’s home. A less “rowdy family celebration” and more “best friends bonding” experience:

While chatting about Rome, food, and passions, I was instructed to slice the fennel and chop the spring onions. As Sandra worked the pans, I stood side-by-side in her kitchen, preparing the fresh alici according to her instructions.

Here’s The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling

Sounds exactly like what best friends would do on a laid-back Saturday evening.

And at the end of the day, that’s exactly what they were – new friends in a foreign country:

We headed out to her sweet Roman balcony and sat down, and toasted to new friends and good meals […] Being welcomed into Sandra’s home for a three-course feast was such a treat. It was the perfect re-entry into Rome, and I left thrilled to have connected to a new Rome foodie friend.

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Ready to eat with locals and make friends? Find a home restaurant in the city of your choice here now.

Home Chefs Around the World Tell us Why they Cook for Strangers

Home Chefs Around the World Tell us Why they Cook for Strangers

We spoke to our BonAppetour hosts about why they chose to cook traditional dishes for travelers who wanted to eat with locals.



Florence: “My family has been living in Paris for two centuries. My grandmother and my mother passed on to me the taste and the practice of traditional French cuisine. I like to add to it a touch of modernity. I've been cooking for my family and friends since my twenties and nothing makes me more happy than to share my passion for cooking”


Sandra: “Since my teens, I've been told that I can cook well. I have a strong passion for cooking, and I look forward to have the opportunity to share my food, with different people from all over the world. Also, to use this social dining experience as a chance to share some interesting stories together.”


Benedicte: “In love with my city I'd like to share a little bit of the Parisian life with guests from around the world”



Pamela: “Originally from Italy I’ve lived in Barcelona since 1999. I have travelled all over the world in order to experience and get to know other cultures, so I’d love to offer the same chances to visitors of Barcelona.”

David & Yuki: “For us, cooking is about telling a story, one of the most important features is generosity. What we love about receiving travellers at home is sharing a nice chat with people from different backgrounds during a cozy meal and sipping a nice Catalan wine together.” 


Teresa: “I have been all over the world and it is always nice to meet people, the best thing is enjoying a good meal with them. So I want to show you food from where I grew up in Barcelona. My Mum was the person who gave me my love for cooking; after that, the world, life and travel, did the rest.”




Alessandro: “I'm a true Roman living very near the Vatican City I've always had a passion for cooking, though I studied and practiced law for a while. I learnt cooking by watching my grandmother, Iolanda and my mother Maria Pia. As a child, I loved experimenting in the kitchen.

It is always a pleasure to cook for guests. I find it relaxing, rewarding and I am always happy when guests love my dishes. I love to experiment with new recipes, starting, by tradition, and then adding a modern touch to it, or even designing completely new delicacies!”

Simona: “It was impossible not to have a passion for cooking if you grew up in a typical Neapolitan family, with two grandmothers and a mother who prepared homemade pasta.  My own kitchen is focused on typical dishes of Neapolitan and Roman tradition. Now I want to share my passion with new people, opening the doors of my home to tourists visiting Rome or anyone who wants to enjoy the taste of tradition in a different way, in a more casual and comfortable atmosphere. I have a degree in law, many years of so-called "normal" jobs behind but when I wake up in the morning and I know I have to organize a dinner I feel happy! Food is culture, tradition and passion!”

Francesca: “It's every time nice sharing our cultures and knowledge and improve my english at the same time too”



Regina: I believe that it is important to live a full and authentic life, enjoy new experiences and be true to yourself, by doing what you love. Cooking is an expression of my love for my family, friends, and the good life we have been blessed with.

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