Planning your dream holiday can be pretty tough. Quickly search for your ideal destination online and you’re sure to find hundreds of different companies, all claiming to provide ‘perfect’, ‘unforgettable’ and ‘once in a lifetime’ trips that sound suspiciously similar to what all of their competitors are offering too.
What’s more, you may discover that all of the companies you find online are using very similar phrases and ‘buzzwords’ on their websites and in their tour descriptions, such as ‘explore’, ‘experience’ or ‘indulge’. These words, filled with the promise and excitement of a unique and enjoyable trip, seem to pop-up on every page you come across – yet what do they really mean, and what makes these trips different from ones you may have enjoyed before?
Travelling like a local
When you think of your ideal holiday, what do you picture yourself doing? Strolling through city streets, camera in hand, admiring the architecture of cities far from home? Reclining by the pool at a luxury hotel resort, with your skin glistening under the hot summer sun? Maybe, you’d rather be interacting with locals – learning their language, discovering their culture and taking part in their daily lives.
When we talk about ‘experience-based’ travel, we’re talking about a type of trip that removes the traditional divide between ‘tourists’ and ‘locals’. For these trips, visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves in the ways and traditions of a country or community, and to see life through the eyes of a native. Typically, activities are hands-on and interactive; rather than simply taking pictures of a craftsman or sampling some cuisine, you may be learning to cook in a grandmother’s kitchen or attempting a form of handiwork that has been practiced in the area for hundreds of years.
Instead of western-style luxury hotels with complimentary smartphones and tennis courts, you could spend the night in a farmhouse owned and lived in by a friendly family who attempt to communicate with you using hand gestures, laughs and smiles. Rather than watching the scenery pass by your window as you travel in a tour bus or taxi, you could be cycling to your next activity, or even hiking through nature with a local guide who knows the area’s history better than anyone else on Earth.
The goal of experience-based travel is to help visitors to gain a true glimpse and understanding of the local way of life, and to provide them with memories, skills and even friendships that they can share and build upon long after they return home; photographs of buildings you’ve seen may stay on your camera’s hard drive, rarely revisited, yet that special recipe you learned from the people you stayed with during your trip is sure to become a favourite you make for every guest and friend for years to come.
What’s in it for you?
Looking at the various exciting opportunities that you can enjoy on an experienced-based trip, it’s easy to see how taking part in one could improve your holiday. With that said however, this type of travelling doesn’t just benefit travellers – it’s also advantageous for the local communities who host them and run the activities that they enjoy.
Sustainability has become a vital element of tourism in recent years, and is at the forefront of how companies plan, implement and run both their businesses and their offerings. Sustainability examines, amongst other things, how much of an impact a trip or experience has on the environment and communities that play host to it, as well as whether the impact is positive or negative.
In many countries such as Japan, travellers typically decide to spend their time mainly within urban, tourist-friendly cities and areas. There are many reasons for this: ease of transport, plenty of fun activities and even multi-lingual support are all potential attractions. Yet, as a result of this, communities in rural areas rarely see any visitors and lack the necessary investment to build their own tourism resources. Younger generations are forced to migrate to urban areas, and rural locations become home to aging populations who struggle to appeal to tourists and bring in foreign income.
By introducing tourists to these communities through experience-based travel, the tourism industry helps to improve employment opportunities that allow younger generations to stay in their hometowns. In addition, tourism can also produce enough income for communities to invest in vital resources and facilities (schools, transport and businesses) that can better equip them for further tourism expansion in future. For locations with rich natural heritage (such as national parks or sites of historical interest), tourism can also generate funds to aid in preservation efforts, and raise awareness of conservation projects.
In this way, visiting rural locations and communities can be considered a way of supporting and investing in the people and businesses who host you – a truly feel-good trip that makes a difference.
About our experiences
Heartland Japan was founded with the aim of introducing the world to the fascinating culture and traditions that exist within Japan’s rural destinations, as well as inspiring a sense of pride amongst local communities. With such an important goal as our influence, we work to create unforgettable tours and trips through which we can share the wonders of the country that we love and call ‘home’.
From trips on fishing boats and quay-side barbeques with locals to tea-leaf picking and cooking delicious meals with the farmers who grew the ingredients, we aim to use our extensive rural connections to make every customer’s tour as unique, immersive and memorable as it possibly can be.
If you’d like to learn more about our trips and how ‘travelling like a local’ can make your time in Japan truly special, feel free to get in touch – we’re always excited to share our passion and dedication with new friends from across the world.