The way you travel is something very personal, but whether you prefer budget travel, luxurious resorts, city trips or two-week hiking trips, there are some lessons every traveler should learn.
1. However different, everyone’s the same
When you are traveling the world you will often notice how different a culture can be from your own. The food might taste differently, customs and traditions might not be the same as yours, fashion might seem strange and the language probably will be different as well. People might not look like you and they might have social rules and expectations other than the ones you are used to.
However, no matter how big all those differences are, in essence everyone’s the same; everyone wants to be treated with respect, everyone appreciates kindness and a smile, everyone needs food and water.
It’s important not to forget this. The people you see and meet abroad aren’t just some other ‘attraction’. There’s a history behind their way of life and as a traveler you should respect that.
2. Knowing one ‘world language’ isn’t enough
Yes, English will get you a long way, especially in more ‘touristy’ destinations, but there are still plenty of places in the world where people only know the local language.
English might be a world language, but its native speakers are still outnumbered by those of Spanish and Mandarin. Now, the Chinese don’t expect you to understand them when they come to Europe, do they?
Even if your language is widely spoken in the country you are you are visiting, it will still act as some kind of barrier. Every word you say will remind both the locals and yourself that you are not from there.
Of course you can’t learn the language of every place you visit and even if you do people would probably still notice you aren’t from around there, but being able to say “hello” or “thank you” can often be a first step to a true conversation… and it will definitely generate some goodwill. Most guidebooks contain a list with basic words and phrases or you could just look some up online before you leave on your trip.
3. Don’t let your guidebook or itinerary lead your trip
It’s great to plan, to know how you need to get somewhere and have an idea of what you want to visit. Don’t let your program get in the way of discovering something new. It’s one thing to know where you’re going, it’s another to be blind to the things you come across on the road leading there. So bring your guidebook, but also take the time to just wander around and explore.
4. Enjoy the moment
You are here, enjoying a sunset, a great meal or an amazing view. Take it in. Memorize it. Don’t just tick the box and worry about where you need to get to next. This moment won’t happen again. Enjoy it.
5. You don’t need all those clothes
Think of all the clothes you would really need to make it through a week without getting smelly. Then think of three items that you would like to bring to brighten up your outfits or for special occasions.
Now think of all the other clothes that you have packed.
Quite the difference, right?
6. You have an impact on every place you visit
When you travel abroad you often use polluting means of transportation to get there.
You bring money you have earned at home to spend in another country and you can choose to spend that money at local shops and restaurants, or at Zara and McDonald’s.
You can stay at fancy international hotel chains, or at local guesthouses.
Depending on your destination you might have a much more expensive lifestyle than the native people. Be aware of that the next time you’re bothered by someone trying to sell you something.
Your trip might mean a two-week break for you, but many people taking a two-week break somewhere will have a long term effect on the local community and their way of life.
That doesn’t mean you have to stay home, but it should make you think about how you behave abroad and how you spend your money there.
7. There are as many ways to travel as there are people. Only travel the way that’s right for you.
There are many articles out there telling you how you should travel. Usually they focus on the places you visit, the time you spend at those places and the way you organize your trip – or have it organized.
Of course you can take advice, but don’t let anyone tell you “you are not traveling the right way”. Figure it out for yourself. You will get there.
About the Author:
Sofie is a language lover and travel aficionada who combines a full-time job with freelance writing and travel blogging. She uses her weekends, vacation days and public holidays to travel the world and share her experiences with you on her blog Wonderful Wanderings. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and Facebook or connect with her on Google+.
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