Carly Wormmeester is a student at Grand Valley State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She participated in service-learning with ISA Service- Learning in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Picture this: You are a spunky twenty-something with great potential applying for your dream job. The interviewer asks you to describe your best qualities. You respond with, “my beautiful eyes and my great taste in shoes.” While these qualities may be two of your admirable assets, they only scratch the surface of what you have to offer. Where am I going with this? Let me explain.
For the average American tourist, the Dominican Republic represents coastline of pristine beaches, palm trees and all-inclusive resorts. It is true, in Punta Cana for example, that all your tropical-vacation-oasis dreams will be fulfilled, but don’t think for a second that you have truly experienced the D.R. A country’s identity is made up of the culture, customs and rich history that can only be discovered when you humble yourself to live like a native.
Here are four practical ways to be more of a traveler and less of a tourist:
- Ask lots of questions- Locals know best. In the Dominican Republic, people are overall more friendly and willing to take a moment to talk with you. Ask about restaurant recommendations, transportation tips and popular hangout spots.
- Utilize social media– From cultural festivals to concerts and carnivals, there is usually a public event happening around the city and social media is a great resource to stay connected with your host community.
- Do some research- Visit historic landmarks, spend the day at a museum or tour a cathedral. A great place to learn about Dominican history is in Salcedo, where you can step foot in the childhood home of the heroic Mirabal sisters. The capital city, Santo Domingo, is the perfect destination to see original architecture and colonial landmarks. The city itself is known as one of the very first European settlements in the Americas.
- Mix it up- There is nothing wrong with spending a weekend relaxing on the beach, but to get the full Dominican experience it is important to explore every corner of the country. I was surprised to discover that my favorite part of the Dominican Republic is actually the lush countryside of the western and central region.
The world awaits…discover it.