As a newcomer to Montreal, it can be hard to decide where to start your travel experience. Overwhelmed with endless suggestions of sites to visit from mobile apps and online reviews, most of us decide to try the most popular restaurants and the first museums to pop up in our Google search. Here at E-QIP, we think there’s a better way to experience travel and that’s as a local. By traveling as a local, you go beyond the typical tourist sites and stumble across cute cafes, quaint boutiques, and authentic restos that you never would have found otherwise. That’s why we have monthly outings to explore a new neighbourhood in Montreal, helping our students find the real hidden gems of the city.
The whole purpose of our neighbourhood walks is to expose our students to a side of Montreal that isn't as widely known yet is up-and-coming. Every out-of-towner has seen or walked through the streets of Vieux Port, Le Plateau, and downtown, but there are so many other areas of Montreal that are just as lively and rich in history but left overlooked. This week our activities club went to Griffintown, a lovely neighbourhood just by Lachine Canal to see what this buzzing, creative community is all about.
Here in Montreal, it’s easy to meet locals and connect with new people wherever you decide to go. Traveling with a group like ours always gives us the opportunity to strike up a conversation with natives of the area. Whether it’s at cafes or shops, speaking with locals offers the perfect opportunity to ask for the real inside scoop about their city and what makes it unique to them. Instead of going to places that people have raved and celebrated, it gives us the opportunity to discover the quieter, off-the-grid spots. Thanks to a lovely local that we bumped into and the aid of Google Maps, we arrived at September Surf Cafe, a hidden gem in the heart of the neighbourhood and we stayed to warm up to a coffee and some pastries.
Another thing that makes traveling like a local so great is that you can be more adventurous and go beyond your comfort zone. When we settle into our routines, it becomes second nature to do things a certain way. But when traveling, you have the opportunity to go off of the unbeaten paths and create your own. Such was the case when we arrived at the wrong subway station and got lost. If anything, it made our walk even better as we walked through the snow along the Lachine Canal and saw a part of Montreal that most of us haven’t been exposed to before. When you travel like a local, you give yourself the opportunity to take the time to get lost and sometimes create better experiences that you originally had planned.
More than anything, traveling like a local requires an open mind and an open heart. Even when living in a new city, sometimes we don’t push ourselves out of our comfort zones as much as we should. By traveling like a local, our students can learn and practice their languages in real-life situations. It primes them for experiences alone and teaches them how to thrive in any environment with comfort. In those situations where communication isn't possible, it teaches our students that a smile and a good attitude can go a long way.