How to Burst Out of Travel’s Luxury Cocoon

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“We ran into some locals who said, ‘Come with us.’ They knew of a dam across the river,” Mr. Creery said. “So we went past big ‘Verboten’ signs, carrying our bikes over barbed wire, but what are you going to do? We got where we needed to go.”

New and expanding bike trails and reserved bike lanes on city streets in many parts of Europe, Australia, Japan and elsewhere are encouraging tourists to pedal around. And whether by biking, walking or running, getting out of a vehicle always gives the better view, according to Ms. Dresser, the film producer, who is a frequent traveler for work and for pleasure. “You’re going to see a lot more and you’re in contact with people,” she said. “You get the feel for the place so much more.”

Cultural values are readily on display in faith communities, and travelers who are respectfully curious, dress modestly and forego photography are often welcomed to visit. Gary Bartelings, a Dutch travel specialist who curates luxury tours, was part of a group of travel professionals invited by Omani tourism officials to tour the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat. During their visit, they met some Omani women who talked about the perception of Islam outside the Muslim world. Mr. Bartelings said he found the encounter extremely powerful.

One of us [Christine] had a similar experience in 2006 in the Syrian capital of Damascus: While packing for a month of Arabic lessons, I included a hymnal from my home church as a gift to the Christian Orthodox congregation with whom I planned to worship. After presenting it to the organist, a congregant invited me home to lunch. It turned into a good opportunity to practice my Arabic and to learn about how Christians live in a largely Muslim country.

A spiritual leader, religious school or seminary can help find a house of worship, or ask someone you’ve met if you can attend a service with them. The BBC prepared a list of general rules of etiquette for a number of different religions.

A popular destination in the height of tourist season is not the place to find artisans eager for a leisurely chat about their craft. A cheese maker in a small village, however, might be thrilled to show visitors around, as Greg Witt of the Utah-based tour company Alpenwild, said he learned from leading European tours for nearly 40 years. He has taken hikers to the high meadows of the Alps where farmers graze their cows in summer.

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