There’s something to be said about the charm of a small town. Whether it’s in your home state or a foreign country, there are many benefits of visiting small towns and not focusing all of your travel time on the often more popular large cities. In all of my travels around the world, I have come to find that not skipping over these small town gems will almost always leave you with a richer experience.
Many of my favorite travel memories were made in small towns around the world. While it can be easy to overlook them and head for the shiny lights of the big city, I urge you, don’t. The little moments shared in a town far off the map can lead to amazing opportunities and genuine friendships.
Still not convinced? Read on for six reasons to visit small towns while traveling. Though they may be small, the impact that these towns can leave on you is big.
6 Reasons to Visit Small Towns While Traveling
The comforts of home are not easily accessible.
Sometimes I find that big cities in the world can start to feel very similar. It makes sense, since they get the most tourism, and tend to cater to the tourists. Catering to tourism, often means offering common conveniences that we all know well and want often. If you’re feeling homesick in a large city, you can always find something that will be familiar from home—even if it’s as simple as a McDonald’s or a Starbucks. In a small town, especially one in a foreign country, you are not as likely to find these things. It forces you to embrace where you are and to find people, places, and things in this new place that can make you just as comfortable.
You are more likely to meet the locals.
In a small town, there is a lot less accessibility to people who are from the same place as you are. In a big city it can be easy to fall back on what you’re used to or reach out to those who have a similar background to you. If you’re in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, you can seek out others who speak your language. It’s easier to find people who get you and where you come from, who have the same mindset.
Part of travel is growing and opening your mind to new people and new ideas. If you fall back on what’s familiar, it doesn’t open your mind much or help you to get to know the culture or place you are in. If you’re in a small town and you want to make friends, chances are you’re going to have to reach out to the locals.
Because people in small towns see a lot less tourism than they would in a big city, they tend to notice you more. In a big city, you might just blend in, but in small town you will stand out. I have found that in smaller towns, the people that live there truly want you to experience their home for all that it has to offer. They want to invite you to things, especially traditional and cultural types of events.
In a foreign country, this attention also means you always have to do your best to respect the culture. You have to make sure you are practicing the customs properly in order to be polite. As a result you will get to know the culture that much better. In a bigger city, you’re just another foreigner; your behaviors are overlooked and shrugged off. This is not the case in small town.
Everything is more authentic and intimate.
The restaurants and shops have a certain quaintness to them. They are nothing fancy, as they aren’t trying to attract all the tourists who come through. Local people usually run them and maybe this restaurant or that corner store has been passed down for many generations – there’s a story behind it, a history. As I said in #1, there are also many less restaurants and shops that you are used to seeing in your home or that are big chains so you’ll likely try something local.
Everyone knows everyone.
Isn’t this the tagline for every small town there ever was? But it’s so true! You will see a familiar face everywhere you go. You’ll see that little shop owner, or a student from school, or the man who runs the bus station and you will start to feel like one of them because they’ll recognize you too.
You will become familiar with your surroundings much quicker.
With less ground to cover you can get your bearings straight early on. You’ll learn your way around town quickly. You can find your favorite coffee shop and the best place to go for lunch in no time. This also means, you will get lost less and become very comfortable with where you are.
Before I end this post, I just have to say, I find it a bit funny/ironic that I am writing this because I am from a small town. I remember growing up and thinking, “I can’t wait to get out of this place. It’s so boring.” Now, I can look back and see all of the good that it holds. Just like all the other small towns of the world, it is full of authenticity, rich experiences, and genuine people.