Close your eyes:
When you hear the word, “Bahamas,” what comes to mind?
The world-renowned beaches? The soft sand that plays with the crystal waters? The shady spots under a flourishing palm tree with coconuts looming with pride yet holding such a refreshing core? Or, maybe the cruises that dock at the harbor?
But here’s the problem:
You’re missing the other side to the Bahamas. What I call, the beautiful side! The side that tourists and travelers alike ignore unintentionally, yet by doing so, they miss out on the best things. Instead of being an introvert and reading that engaging book on a lounge chair by the pool, go out with the local Bahamians and make friends! Come back with stories that people will be jealous about, not stories that people can disregard and respond with the blunt, yet true answer: “Been there don’t that.”
Here’s the kicker: It’s right in front of your face.
Now, you may be wondering: “How can we ignore it if it’s in front of our faces?”
Well, it’s because we often don’t reach out to this beautiful, authentic side. So to clarify, what is this beautiful, authentic side of the Bahamas? The local life as it is truly lived, and is set before us by the local Bahamians. Put yourself out there! Don’t be afraid of the unknown, because sometimes the unknown can become your new home.
I realized something during the many travels I’ve been on. It was crazy, because every time I returned from vacation, I felt like I was missing something.
It was a horrible feeling. Something was missing, and I heartily felt that my trip was should have been 100% fulfilling. And I pondered for hours as to what I had missed.
And it hit me. It hit me quite hard.
I was missing out on the local side to every country. While I was sheltering myself with the tourists, because I’m a safety freak, I should’ve been interacting with the normal locals that live the real life of the country, and entail interesting stories.
The locals and their lives are what make each country unique and different. The touristy side, isn't even real. There’s a real Maldives and there’s a real France and there’s a real Barbados.
The Bahamian people built the foundation of today’s Bahamas and left the interesting history as part of its main composition.
So, here is the beautiful, genuine, locally approved side to the Bahamas.
Conch: The Delicacy of the Bahamas
The Bahamas is known for this when it comes to the Bahamian cuisine. Locals eat it just as much as tourists do.
While it may not have a distinct flavor, it can be best compared to octopus. The texture of a chewy, yet sometimes hard bite is similar. Furthermore, just like octopus, conch soaks up its yumminess due to the incredible flavors that drown it.
And sure, criticize me if you will, I know conch isn’t a place, but it plays a big role in the diet of numerous Bahamians.
Food is the gateway to people’s cultures. Food is art, and just like art, every dish has its own meaning in people’s life. And every dish has its own unique style.
But conch also has two sides to the equation. We have the common served conch dish, conch fritters, that are typically sold to tourists. And we have the local conch dish, scorched conch. Are you in for a treat? If you want to go full out Bahamian then ask for some goat pepper sauce with your order of scorched conch. It’s a pepper that’s closely related to the ghost pepper family.
Ride with Cab Drivers
During your stay in the Bahamas, I guarantee you’re going to call a cab driver. But instead of just riding and staying silent, talk to the locals! Engage in meaningful interaction. Talk about them, learn about them, and most importantly share stories and jokes along the way. Don’t just talk to the locals because you are trying to get a good deal on an activity.
Learn about the culture and the people. What do they like? What do they do on their free time? There is so much to learn about the Bahamian people that it’s incredible. Yet, sadly, people forget all about the lovely culture and instead only embrace the beauty of the Instagrammable photos that they see on their feed.
Be that person that comes back to tell stories that other’s wish they could’ve had. Come back with an interesting story that resonates with everyone. Talk about the exchanged stories you had with the Bahamian people.
Don’t come back to your friends with the same pictures they have seen on Instagram. Don’t come back to your family with the same stories they have seen online. Be unique and step out of your comfort zone. Instead of taking a photo with the clear water behind you, take a photo with a local that shows a meaningful caption.
Riding with cab drivers is a great way to really connect with locals. Being in a car going from point A to point B is the perfect opportunity to spark up a conversation that can turn into a wildfire. Furthermore, cab drivers have stories to tell. It’s not a boring ride.
Be Yourself and Just Embrace the Island
I’m going to be honest. I can’t give you a detailed list of the best places to go in Nassau that’ll help you connect with locals easier. Why? Because it doesn’t exist. Yes, there are places that can expedite that venture, but if you put yourself out there then there’s no telling how many new friends you can make abroad.
Every street you turn, every store you pass, every person you see holds a special piece of the Bahamas with them. Just ask questions. Really open your mind and ponder about the culture and everything the Bahamas has to offer besides just snapshots of paradise.
The Bahamas offers a remarkable amount of life-changing opportunities. We see things that we can’t see at home, we embrace a vibe that can’t be felt at home, and we taste things that can’t be tasted at home. Most importantly, we become friends with the locals that we couldn’t have met back at home.
This article was contributed by Dereck, the owner of Trek with Derk. For more of his experiences with locals, and great things to do in the Bahamas, start with this story: http://trekwithderk.com/blog/