Want to Connect with Locals? Take a Class

Karen Gershowitz's picture


After watching dancers on the streets of Buenos Aires, do you long to learn how to tango? Or perhaps a meal in an exotic destination, where flavors danced on your tongue, made you think, "I wish I could prepare this!"  The good news is your interests and passions are keys to unlocking unique experiences. It's surprisingly easy to find classes or groups that will connect you with others who share your interests, no matter where you are in the world. 

Want to Connect with Locals? Take a Class

Finding local groups and activities is often about utilizing multiple resources and a bit of creative searching. From online platforms, physical community hubs, and even personal interactions, a wealth of opportunities exists to connect you with local experiences.

Whether you're looking to learn a new skill, meet new people, or simply enjoy a hobby, try these methods: 

Find Your Tribe Through Meetup, TimeOut, and Eventbrite

Whether you are traveling to another country or exploring in your own country, platforms like Meetup, TimeOut, and Eventbrite can help you find like-minded individuals—and often local residents. 

Meetup, with its reach in 193 countries and 10,000 cities, is an easy way to find people who share your passions. Whether it's dance, cooking, art, music, photography, hiking, or sports, you'll probably find a local community ready to embrace you.

TimeOut provides extensive lists of activities, events, and classes in 59 countries and 333 cities. The next time you want to learn something new or simply have fun, browse through TimeOut, and you're likely to stumble upon something appealing.

Eventbrite operates in 180 countries. Nearly 60,000 organizers around the world use the platform each month to manage, promote, and sell tickets and registrations.  These can include anything from classes, book signings, and networking gatherings to concerts, festivals, and conventions. Many of the classes and events are free or at low cost.

Want to Connect with Locals? Take a Class

Explore Local Resources

Don't overlook local tourist offices. They often know about hidden gems that aren't listed anywhere else. 

One example is a cooking class the tourist office directed me to in Cartagena, Colombia. I knew it would be great when Enrique, my affable host, said, "We're heading to the Mercado de Bazurto. It's a totally different Cartagena than the Old City or the beach areas. This is where Cartagenians shop for food, household goods, clothing, and, well, almost anything. You're going to see the real Cartagena." And I did. 

We then went to his home and prepared the food we had purchased at the market. One of the best days I spent in Cartagena included seeing the market, Enrique's home and family, and learning to cook an authentic meal. That cooking class became an immersive experience that showed me an authentic part of Cartagena. It has stayed with me for years.

Cooking at Enrique’s, Cartagena. From Want to Connect with Locals? Take a Class
Cooking at Enrique’s, Cartagena

Many community centers and libraries host classes, workshops, and group activities. From yoga classes to book clubs, they can be great hubs to connect with local culture and find like-minded individuals.

While not classes, if you're in an English-speaking country, consider looking online for readings at local bookstores. 

Universities often offer classes, lectures, and workshops that are open to the public. These can range from language courses to art workshops. Campus bulletin boards and university websites may help you find information on upcoming events. 

Many cities in the U.S. and around the globe still have vibrant local newspapers and magazines that include event calendars and listings. They often highlight community gatherings, performances, classes, and more.  In Seattle, a city I visit frequently, The Stranger is an extensive resource for everything going on around the city. Friends in Seattle tell me it is their go-to source for locating classes and performances. 

Drawing class, Paris. From Want to Connect with Locals? Take a Class
Drawing class, Paris

Check Out Apps Specific to Your Interests
Depending on your interests, specialized apps might exist to connect you with local groups, classes, or activities. For example, if you're into hiking, there are apps that connect hikers. In Milan, I discovered free outdoor stretching and Tai Chi classes. 

Why Classes are More than Just Learning
Classes and group activities are more than learning experiences. They are opportunities to bond with others who share your enthusiasm. They provide a glimpse into the local culture, a way to make new friends, and are a path to personal growth.

lassroom, cooking school, Seoul, South Korea. From Want to Connect with Locals? Take a Class
Classroom, cooking school, Seoul, South Korea

When you step out of your comfort zone to join a dance class in Buenos Aires or a cooking class in Cartagena, you're not only gaining a new skill—you're embracing a community, connecting with the local people, and broadening your perspective.

Karen Gershowitz has been traveling solo since age seventeen, when she flew to Europe and didn’t return to the US for three years. In her career as a marketing strategist and researcher, she traveled the world conducting thousands of meetings, focus groups, and interviews. When traveling for pleasure, those same skills helped her to draw out people’s stories. She learned about their lives, as well as local customs and fashions and what makes them laugh. Her first book of travel stories, Travel Mania, explores the confluence of travel and life events and how travel has changed her beliefs and life direction. Her new book, Wanderlust, continues those stories, addressing issues readers have asked to hear more about—memorable food, people, and places she experienced in her travels. She is a regular contributor to JourneyWoman, a publication for solo women travelers over age 50, and International Swans, a publication about women in the arts. Karen lives in New York City.

Wanderlust, by Karen Gershowitz