When I go on vacation, I really like to take advantage of the new locale. In another state, it might be dining at a local restaurant rather than a national chain. Yelp is really helpful for this. In international cities, it might be eating what that region is known for–at least once.
If you don’t take advantage of learning the most you can about an area, you are wasting part of your vacation. Taking advantage of local customs really makes you pay attention to where you are. Particularly if you can (safely) venture off the beaten path.
In my first European trip, I tried cassoulet in France and we got lost (intentionally) in the streets of Venice. The cassoulet was delicious and was different from what I would have normally chosen, but I was pretty proud of myself for venturing outside of my comfort zone. And I didn’t die! So I will be testing that again on my next trip.
In Venice, we just meandered. We stopped for cappuccino when we saw somewhere interesting and stopped where we saw interesting things to admire–like Italian leather purses. If we had just stayed in the “touristy” areas, we would have missed it all, we would have missed the window boxes, the curtains in the windows, the age and architecture of the city, and REAL people living in REAL houses. It was–quite simply–amazing. We are returning to Venice next year and are already planning to get lost again.
I can’t imagine traveling that far to visit McDonalds or Starbucks (although I actually did do that once in Spain!). Venture outside your comfort zone and try it out–even just once. It may just make the time and money you spent to get there worth even more!