Thanks to the locals’ indifference, if I kept a low profile, I had the pleasure of seeing that approach to life up close. Meanwhile, my experience in Sorrento, just an hour away, was the polar opposite: I felt as though it was impossible to escape being catered to. Beautiful views aside, I often felt overcharged and slightly underwhelmed. On the whole, the only locals I observed were those with whom I carried out transactions.

I’ve had this experience elsewhere, too. A month I spent in Belgrade went by without a single person so much as enquiring where I was from—they could not have cared less about my story or my money. During what was supposed to be a short stopover in the sleepy beachside town of Da Nang, in Vietnam, I didn’t see any other tourists in the neighborhood that I stayed in, and thus didn’t have to work to avoid restaurants where tourists ended up (as a result, I ditched a plan to go to the guidebook-endorsed city of Hoi An nearby, and stayed put for a week). I once spent two months living in the 18th arrondissement in northern Paris, where I had no choice but to learn how to order my drinks in broken restaurant French, as there was none of the English-speaking you’d find in the center of the city.

The preference for places where people don’t care about my presence is tied to my aforementioned laziness. If my goal when I’m traveling is to have an experience as close to that of someone who lives there as possible, it’s a lot easier when I don’t have to do extensive research to find a restaurant where locals eat. Or spend time figuring out if I’m overpaying for my nightly aperitivo. Or go out of my way to stay in neighborhoods where I’m less likely to find people like me.

You might think, “Indifference?! I want to travel somewhere where the locals are welcoming to me.” Fair enough. But what I am talking about here is not the aloof standoffishness that characterizes too-cool-for-school establishments in the Brooklyns of globe. It’s places where the daily thrum of life is not just visible but palpable, where the business of going about one’s business hasn’t been drowned out by mass tourism, and the local economy may be happy to have you, but isn’t dependent on your existence.

These places, very often, are not ones that travel magazines, internet threads, and Instagram will endorse with dreamy vistas—and that is exactly why, if you find one, you should treasure it.

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