Saturday, 14 March 2009

Want to meet locals? Pack a cassette tape

Travel tips on meeting locals? I thought I'd heard them all. But here's a rare and interesting one, courtesy of TravelAnswerMan:

"Bringing your own music in an MP3 player or portable CD player is a great way to block out the screeching noise of foreign cities, smooth the ride on trying bus or jeep journeys, or pass the time during long transit periods. On the other hand, there is nothing more isolating than a pair of headphones.

"Instead, try traveling with one or two classic cassette mix-tapes. When you tire of the cab’s selection of “the coolest American music”, or a jeep driver’s library of Mongolian throat singing tapes, offer the driver one of your own.

You’re not the only one who may be interested in hearing something new."

Depends where you are and how you do it, of course. You can't go calling out: "Hey, driver! Call this music?! We do it much better where I'm from!" He could just as easily have the same opinion of your indie hits as you do of his throat singing.

However, from time to time, it can certainly be a good conversation starter and a form of cultural exchange.

I've done it myself in Australia on bus ride across the Great Ocean Road. The tour guide liked it, we became friends, and, when we arrived in his hometown of Melbourne, he took me out for a day, showing me all his favourite hotspots.

Nonetheless, we shouldn't be too keen to listen to our own soundtrack, or it's no different from keeping those headphones on the whole time. The music you don't consider "to your taste" almost always makes the best memories. I'm thinking of the pumping reggaeton on the Panamanian diablo rojo (red devil) buses and the 1990s power ballads in Cusco cabs. Anyone enjoying the pleasure of having forgotten Rod Steward, Bryan Adams and Sting's All for One? Sorry to ruin it for you, but, believe me, it's all the rage among Peruvian taxi drivers.

See TravelAnswerMan's blog for more tips on meeting locals when travelling.

Photo: Wiki Images