There I was eating Peruvian ceviche with the view of Santiago, Chile’s sprawling skyline behind me as Mexican folk dancers performed. Never did I ever think I’d find myself here.


Local Travel


I expected a lot of things when I first came to Santiago for my six-month internship with LocalAventura. I expected to taste the famous Chilean wines, to hike in Patagonia, to go to museums in the city, along the way of these typical touristy activities, I hoped to also come across some local secrets. Going to a Peruvian ceviche festival in Chile, didn’t seem so “local” at the time. It just seemed random.


Stephanie Cohn - LocalAventura Searching for Aunthenticy


Flash forward a few weeks later, when I was actually in Peru. I was bar hopping in the bohemian Barranco neighborhood of Lima, Peru, with plenty of help from the Borderless Project’s wonderful tips. It was only just the other day that people were warning me of the dangers of Lima, and so these trendy, bustling bars were certainly not what I was expected. In fact with all the hipsters and international crowd, the bars felt very Brooklyn. The best part of the night wasn’t tasting my first aguaymanto sour or exploring the many rooms of a refurbished Victorian-style mansion turned bar, though that was certainly a blast. It was the small hole-in-the-wall, vintage-style bar we wandered into. There were probably only four other people in there and a Peruvian guitar player. Surrounding by antique, statues of saints and religious artwork, and the sound of the guitar, I knew that this little find was completely out-of-the-blue. This little secret, was such a find, but was totally random.


Stephanie Cohn - LocalAventura Searching for Aunthenticy


Out of all the odd little moments I’ve had, the most pleasant surprise has been “Spanglish.” These weekly meetup events are where locals and expats alike gather to practice Spanish and English. My first time attending I didn’t realize how popular these events were– for both Chileans and foreigners alike, or how friendly people would be. Coming from the USA, where many people are afraid to approach strangers in bars, it was a shock that I could go up to anyone and they would be happy to strike up a conversation. By deciding to go to this meetup one random Tuesday, I have since met some of my closest friends in Chile. Those of which who have shown me the best restaurants in the city, taken me on hikes nearby, or invited me to completely random events… like the Ceviche festival.

My point is that authentic travel cannot be planned. It comes naturally when you open yourself up to new experiences. So yes, read online blogs, book a tour with a local guide, and take advice from your friends. This is the starting point for local experiences, but remember that your most authentic moments will come when you approach these tips with an open mind. It may be awkward and it won’t always be apparent, yet after four months of expat life in South America, I can safely say that my most authentic experiences came from the most random moments… the moments where I stop and say “never did I think I’d find myself here.”



Stephanie Cohn works for LocalAventura, a travel tech startup focused on connecting Local Guides with adventurous travelers for more authentic experiences throughout the region. As a traveler herself, Stephanie is constantly searching for authenticity in her adventures, and working for LocalAventura has taught her a thing or two about doing just that. Through meeting with Local Guides in Chile, Argentina, and Peru, she has gotten a real taste of local life that she cannot wait to share.