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Many travelers skip touristy places like Phuket, Thailand or even Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We avoid tourist zones in search for something off the beaten path that not everyone gets to see.

However there’s another side to these places. There’s more than beach chairs and a playground pre-made for adult entertainment. There are the faces of the people that actually live in these places. There is always a local side.

In Playa del Carmen, we walked just 5 blocks away from 5th Avenue to encounter local life despite the protests from travelers who’d never even left the tourist area. We witnessed an evening game of basketball, a sermon in the park, uniformed teens making their way to school, and our favorite authentic Mexican food.

In Antigua, we stumbled across a well hidden market right next to the bus terminal. This massive market housed everything under the sun – food, produce, music, clothes, toiletries, household items, fabric, flowers, you name it. The only foreigners in sight, we ate lunch side by side with locals on their lunch break from work.

In Cancun, we watched locals enjoy their lunch time with live entertainment amongst food stalls or an early dinner with the family in the Park Las Palapas.

By residing in Cancun’s downtown area instead of the hotel zone, we also witnessed locals in full uniform making their way to the hotel zone everyday to go to work. Thanks to the mass tourism industry, thousands of people in Cancun have jobs.

It’s important to remember that people count on us to visit their cities to help provide them with income to feed their families. When our money helps a country’s economy we are giving back to the people that welcome us into their homeland and who help mold our travel experiences.

Maybe going to “tourist traps” is not necessarily a negative thing. It should encourage us to dig a little harder making it more rewarding when we discover the part that so many miss when visiting these areas.