Try to travel to places where you know someone - or, at least, where you have SOME kind of connection to someone who lives there. Hopefully, that person will help you participate in the local culture, as opposed to just being a 'tourist', and skimming the surface. It is much more rewarding to be places where you can be WITH people, as opposed to OBSERVING people from a distance.
Don't travel on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. That's when everyone else travels. Travel on Thursday. Flights are less crowded. It's easier to get through Customs. And it leads to the next lesson -
Be there on the weekend. Don't GET there on the weekend. If you're there for the start of the weekend, it will allow your host/guide/friend the most time to show you their 'place' - where they live - and what's great about it.
In the year 1190, it was dangerous for a lone Knight to travel the roads of the Middle East. Even though the Christian forces had returned in large numbers to face Saladin, to wrest Jerusalem from his grasp, and even though Acre had fallen and was once again under their control, there were still incursions into Christian Territory by small bands of Moslems who would attack lone travelers and kill them, or extort money. In that day and time, kidnapping and extortion were popular means of funding one's lifestyle, and was practiced by almost all men of station, both East AND West.
"Habeeb!! More wine." The Knight and his squire sat at the long, rough table which occupied one half of the room. Habeeb sat on a low stool, next to the hearth in one corner of the room, stirring the stew which simmered in the great pot which hung over the fire.
He rose and filled a serving pot from the large goatskin which hung in a rickety wooden frame, under a round wooden cover, standing next to him. He splashed a little water over the outside of the goatskin.
As he poured wine into the tankards the two men were drinking from, he spoke. "You speak Arabic, Sire. Rare for a man of the West."
"As a young man I lived in Constantinople. My father was a trader in spices and we did much business with the men of Mecca. My father spoke the language of the Mongol and the Turk, I spoke the languages of the Middle East. This knowledge has served me well."
He reached into the small purse at his belt and pulled out a gold coin.
"No, no, Sire. No payment required."
"Thank you, Habeeb. You are most kind and generous. But why?"
"The woman, Sire, she tells me she saw you bury those men who attacked you on the road. The woman says you buried them facing Mecca. It is rare to find such respect for an enemy in a man of the West."
The Knight looked long into the eyes of Habeeb, and Habeeb could see, in those clear blue eyes, that the memory of the day's business was painful.
"In shallah, this fighting will come to an end and we can live in peace. In shallah."
"As you say, Sire. In shallah. God willing."
Habeeb returned the serving pot to the high shelf over the goatskin, and again, splashed a little water over the outside of the skin. He returned to his station, next to the pot simmering over the low fire.
"M'Lord, the only thing I have understood in all that you have said to each other is the last two words that heathen spoke - 'God Willing'. Do you suppose you might limit yourself to the King's English?"
"Good Squire, I would not bandy the word 'heathen' about too freely. Habeeb is as conversant in the King's English, as you call it, as he is in Arabic. He might choose to run you through."
"With what, M'Lord? A wooden serving spoon?"
"There is a scimitar leaning against the wall behind the wineskin. Did you not see it? No, you did not. I can see it in your face. How, in the name of the King, have you managed to live this long?"
The squire ignored the insult.
"M'Lord, why does he splash water on that skin?"
"Taste your wine, Squire and tell me; is it not cool on the tongue?"
The squire raised his tankard and drank nearly half.
"Aye, M'Lord, now that you make mention of it, it IS cool!! But how?"
"I know not the science of it, Squire, but the Arabs have always known that as water dries on the outside of a skin it will cool what is inside. These 'heathens', as you call them, have sciences and arts of which we have no knowledge."
"As may be, M'Lord, but it is a good thing, I think, that they fight no better than they do."
"Oh, they fight well enough, Squire. It's the tactics they used today that defeated them, not their fighting ability. They came at me singly, or in pairs, and they weren't prepared for my second sword, my Falcata. The Roman short sword is excellent for close in work, especially when the enemy works in under my long sword. Two swords are better than one, Squire, and forget you not that admonition. In spite of all of that, good Squire, if they had tried to kill me, really tried, they would have done. But their attack was uncoordinated and they intended a kidnap for ransom, not a murder, and that was their undoing. You, they would have killed, I think, but me, they would have taken for ransom."
"Oh, well then, it's as I said, M'Lord. It's a good thing they fought no better than they did.
For me, anyway."