When I got off the plane that took me back home from Costa Rica, I swore off Gallo Pinto. The delicious Costa Rican staple was my primary source of nutrition for my trip, but I was ready to get back to a normal diet when I got back home.
Why Eat Locally?
I have traveled to many places in the world. In my travels, I always make a point to try something local when a vegetarian option is available. In recent adventure when I travel hacked my way to Europe, I ate Fish and Chips in London. I had wine, cheese, baguettes, and crepes in Paris. I had Dutch pancakes and Vlaamse Frites in Amsterdam. And I ate Gallo Pinto, a fancy mix of rice and beans, three meals a day for most of my trip to Costa Rica.
Eating locally is a great way to connect to a new culture. I do not leave the United States to eat at McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, or Pizza Hut. When I leave, I want to experience the society the way locals do. I go to restaurants, parks, and bars that locals frequent. While I am there, I try to meet local people and get a feel for what it is like to live there.
How to Eat Locally
My best friend while abroad, particularly in a non-English speaking country, is Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet guide books are in depth guides that give you everything you need to know about a city, country, culture, cuisine, lodging, and other tidbits when traveling somewhere new. The only reason I survived a solo trip to Prague and Budapest was my Lonely Planet guide books.
The first thing to read about when it comes to meal time is what the locals eat. In London, it was just as easy to find Chinese and Thai food as Fish and Chips. On the East End I had amazing Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. I found that Londoners eat a wide variety of foods, but that didn’t mean the traditional option was not available.
Once you find out what the locals eat, you have to find a place to do it. Lonely Planet makes it easy, but sometimes it is fun to explore and pick a random café or street vendor to get your local food fix. They are often cheaper and better than the places that will try to take your coveted tourist dollars.
You could also try to find a local grocery store instead of a restaurant, but I would rather take the lazy route while on vacation.
Why did I say no to Gallo Pinto when I got home? I had a four day stomach ache at the end of my Costa Rican vacation. Why did I use extreme caution finding restaurants when I visited Playa Del Carmen in Mexico? I know about Montezuma’s Revenge.
While I am always up for an adventure, I have to protect my stomach as well. I know I have a weak digestive system, as opposed to some of my friends with stomachs of steel, so I have to eat locally the right way.
If you are eating something that you are not used to, don’t eat it for every meal. Alternate between local food and something you are used to. I did stop into Subway in London, I did have pizza in Paris, and I enjoyed Chinese stir fry in Amsterdam.
At the end of the day, it is all about enjoying your experience. If eating Balut (Google that one) in the Philippines or drinking Baby Mice Wine in Korea would ruin your day, skip it. I bet there is something local you would like instead.
What have you eaten abroad that you really enjoyed? What did you see that grossed you out? What is your strategy to eat locally? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Image by JMR_Photography
10 thoughts on “How I Eat Locally Everywhere”
We eat locally by growing a garden in the summer and buying from a CSA. We get most of our produce this way which is often things that need to be shipped in from other places. As far as seeing something overseas that grossed me out, when I was in Thailand you could order bugs on a stick. Not my thing.
Bugs on a stick? Protein? lol
It is great to hear about your own garden experience. I don’t have a yard (live in a condo), but it would be great to do someday when I make my way out to a house.
My brother and I travel to China annually to visit our parents. I love eating street food. 16 dumplings for a dollar (YES!) Most things that gross me out are the things that still have eyes (birds and fish) but other than that I’m okay. Just make sure that the food is prepared in a clean place and you are good to go.
The cleanliness tips are huge. I know someone who got dysentery eating from a street food stand in the Middle East. Nasty stuff.
I always eat locally overseas or here at home. I particularly enjoyed some great Greek food in Athens and wonderful Spanish food in Barcelona. I am real careful in Mexico where I eat though. I particularly like the small family owned places that are plentiful in Europe.
That is good thinking in Mexico. My Dad brushed his teeth with bad water in Mexico a few years ago and felt the wrath of Montezuma’s revenge.
I don’t eat beef or pork except those I eat anything the local cuisine let me eat. Nice point. You are a world traveler.
I try to get around and see the world. I want to go everywhere I have never been that I can safely go.
My favorite food that I’ve eaten abroad was a ham croissant in Paris. SOoooooo good! Plus of course, bread anywhere and everywhere.
My favorite bread is Na’an, but I have not made it to India just yet. The pastries in Paris were all spectacular, though my favorite was anything that included chocolate.
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