Most interesting local you met while abroad

Locals can leave an unbelievable impression on your travels . . . some of us have had encounters with locals that have shaped our futures, some at the very least have just made our travels all the more pleasurable. Here are our top memories of locals met while travelling . . . 


I didn’t so much meet an interesting local, but a group of locals the first time I visited Budapest. My friend and I went out for the night to explore some of Budapest’s famous ruin bars. We were at Szimpla Kert when we met a group of Hungarian students. They brought us to an old abandoned theatre that a group of local artists had converted into an art studio/dance space. We spent the night dancing to local techno and talking with fascinating Hungarian students and artists about Eastern European history and politics. It was an unforgettable experience.


Back in 1988 my husband and I visited Adelaide and booked a day tour out to the Barossa Valley. We sat up front and took the opportunity to chat with the driver. In talking with him we discovered that him and his wife had actually moved to Vancouver many years ago to pursue a career in the radio industry. It was difficult to break into, so they thought they would try their luck in Toronto which was the centre of radio work at the time. They weren’t happy with Toronto so they decided to leave and travel around the world and back to Adelaide. He ended up inviting us to dinner and we had a lovely evening with his family, which made a very special ending to tour stay in that lovely city.


We were travelling down the Mekong in a fast boat from Chiang Saen in North Thailand to Luang Prabang in Laos. The boats we maybe three feet wide and 18 feet long and were very uncomfortable. The ride usually took 6 hours but unfortunately the blade on our prop engine broke and we were stranded on the Mekong, in the middle of what we thought was nowhere.

I had my three boys with me and the youngest at the time would have been maybe 12. We floated down the river to a floating dock and the driver spoke with the attendant who we discovered was the chief of the village. There was no English, French or Spanish spoken here at all. To make a long story short, we stayed overnight on the porch of the chief’s house. Raised up on stilts our presence was probably the highlight of the decade. We had grandmothers trying to marry off granddaughters to my sons and their local hooch was prevalent.

I admit I was a little nervous about being in the middle of nowhere and no one knowing where we were. I stayed with the chief through the next morning (I gave him my favourite Fairview Mountain golf hat with a Canadian flag) trying to get a lift down the river, he kept telling me no and to wait and I was a little worried. Eventually another driver with another fast boat picked us up. I first negotiated the price of overnight accommodation and dinner (less than $5) and then happily had to pay yet again for a ride out of there. If you go out on the Mekong and see a man with a Fairview Mountain golf hat (on the Laos side of the river) please say hello.

Many years ago when I had just finished high school, our family went on an amazing trip to India. While many of the large cities were a bit much for this impressionable teenager, what struck a chord was a remote village in Northern India in the Himalayas near the Tibetan border.

We had hired a driver and sought out special permits to travel to this remote part of the country. Not only was it some of the most majestic countryside that I had ever seen, but the people were absolutely amazing and beautiful. Very different from the locals in Delhi and Mumbai which we had also visited, this group of people resembled Tibetans in many regards. They do not see many tourists in this area and I will never forget how awed they were by our presence . . . especially so by my young brothers (I believe my youngest brother was about 2 at the time – so he was a real hit). The children all came running up to our jeep to touch our skin and talk to us.

The memories of them have left a lasting impression. One morning in particular we awoke in our room at a Buddhist Monastery where we had rented beds for about $3/night. We awoke to a woman bursting through our door. We were all in bed and pretty shocked to find a woman now standing in our room. She was grinning from ear to ear and selling hand knit socks. I’m not sure if my folks bought the socks just to get her out of our room, or because they really wanted the socks – but we all got a pair! They were the warmest socks and I wore them for many years afterwards. The memory of her wonderful smile is always easy to recall.


A few years ago when I went on safari in Africa I visited Kenya. In one of the towns we visited I came across an interesting little shop. The shop keeper was a Kenyan woman with a beautiful smile. She approached me and invited me into her shop to bring her good luck. She made me feel so special, and I will always remember her. Whenever I think of that moment it brings a smile.


When trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, an old knee injury began seriously acting up, so I had to stop in a tiny village in the mountains to let it heal. I stayed with a woman and her family, none of whom spoke a word of English, in a small, multigenerational home. The family’s livelihood was beekeeping and to heal my knee the woman performed ‘apitherapy’. She spread hot honeycomb on my knee over a few days until the skin became tacky. She then put a device on my knee and used a suction technique to pull the skin away from my knee. Overall, I spent three to four days in the village and the woman performed apitherapy each day until I could finally walk out of the village. I’ve never forgotten this experience all these years later.


Last year I went on an amazing trip to Cambodia. Though I can’t single out a particular local that stood out among the rest, I can say that everyone I encountered in Cambodia was friendly, honest and open. Everyone I met was incredibly interesting and I would return in a heartbeat.


When I was 27 I took a trip to the Philippines for a convention in Manila. During the convention, the revolution against President Marcos began and the convention was cancelled. The government asked people to open their homes to the people attending the convention. I went with my family to a woman’s house whose husband had been assassinated. The house was huge and tables of various dishes such as suckling pig were laid out. I spent the entire night talking with the woman about Asian culture and history. After spending the evening talking extensively with her, I enrolled in Asian Studies at UBC and eventually obtained my BA in the subject.