Sitting in a little café in California this week I was reminded why I enjoy them so much.
When traveling I try to 'go where the locals go'.
Why? So many reasons, but the first among them is the sense of community I get.
We are always baffled by the amount of travelers that profess to want to 'experience' something or someplace new, but insist on stopping at the first major chain restaurant they see on an exit.
By not getting off the highway, so-to-speak, we miss the opportunity to get a good sense of people and place.
When we move into new communities, one of the first things we do is look for somewhere to eat. We're looking for someplace that we feel comfortable and the food is good. Some place where we are sure of a welcome and camaraderie. A place where we can visit with our neighbors and make newcomers feel a part of the 'family'.
Food is the #1 common denominator we share.
When traveling, I often find that popping into the local café and simply asking a question of one person, starts an entire discussion. I can easily find out about local history, great off the beaten path things to see or do- along with all the regular local ones, upcoming events, who has the best ice-cream/shopping/entertainment/whatever. All this information and more is generally delivered in a jovial, good natured back and forth between patrons and employees alike. I get a sense of place.
Me to waitress: What's to do today that's interesting? Waitress: I dunno- hey BOB! (hollers at guy 5 booths away) What's going on out at the XYZ today???
And BOOM! A discussion about who's who and what's what.
We all have those places we return to time after time. They can be in a small town or in a big city. It may the coffee table at the gas station.
So the next time you're on vacation, a road trip to grandmas house or just traveling for business- get off the highway, and go where the locals go.