If you want to get to know a town and its people, go shopping. Local markets are the best places to get the true flavor and insider perspective of what it's like to live there.
No place proves the point more than Livingtone, Zambia.
We only had a few hours to get a feel for the town of approximately 135,000 people. Named after the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone, the historic British colonial city today is a tourism hub for visitors to Victoria Falls.
In our highly conspicuous, open-air Land Rover, we rolled through town.
That's us, the shadow rolling by a market in Livingstone.
Time was limited and we only had precious minutes to see it, so we let the wheels turn as we watched people hawk their wares. In hindsight, we wish we would have given up territory coverage to spend more time walking the markets to get a better appreciation of the town and its people.
My eyes always gravitate toward food. But in Livingstone's markets, the people's warm smiles drew me in.
As we cruised aboard our beastly vehicle, several friendly faces greeted us and ecouraged us to take their pictures. That's not the typical reception one gets when toting a camera and enough gear to make you look like you're ready to film "Out of Africa." OK, maybe it's not that much stuff, but my gear-lugging husband might beg to differ.
"Take my picture," was a common request and I happily obliged.
Laguna Beach? We were just as suprised from this local's T-shirt as we were when we saw someone wearing one bearing our hometown's name of Tulsa.
No one liked their photo taken more than the kids at a small village we visited outside of town. They marveled at having their picture taken and then seeing it on the camera's preview screen.
During the tour of the village, the guide told us about how our camp, Toka Leya, supported its school, water-well development and businesses such as brick-making.
Back in the town of Livingstone, vendors worked out of makeshift stalls filled with brightly colored fabrics, clothing, bed linens, and beans, spices and other foodstuff. Others set up shop on the side of the road without the conveniences of tables and chairs.
These businesses focused on more than wheeling and dealing. The experience felt more like a church social, where the community came together for the common good.
It doesn't matter where you are in the world. The need for community is universal and there's no better place to see it in action than in a local market.