How To Master Traveling, Without Coming Off As A Tourist
As summer rolls around, the number of trips taken, both national and international, skyrocket. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. In fact, one of the most liberating, exciting experiences I’ve ever encountered was studying abroad. I studied abroad in Costa Rica the second semester of my sophomore year and instantly, I caught the travel bug. There was culture shock, of course. But learning and adapting to a new culture—tasting the food of the culture, dancing to the music of it, adjusting to the rules of a new land—it was all so life changing. I was forced to learn how to travel. Yes, I know, it sounds a bit idiotic and counterintuitive: “you’re a traveler if you travel right?” Wrong. Some people are just coasting by life as tourists, never fully (and literally) tasting the beautifully intricate aspects of the place they’re traveling to. But have no fear, kiddos! I’m going to teach you how to drop the tourist façade and become a full-on traveler, and all in three easy steps.
Step 1: Play By That Culture's Rules
This first step is the most important! Always remember, you are the guest. Lose that ethnocentrism! I promise, it’ll make the rest of the trip much more exciting. Now, this can be difficult. Trust me, I know. But if you wanted to live life the same way you do in your hometown, why the hell did you leave!? Of course, there will be some things you absolutely, positively hate about the culture, but it’s part of the learning process. Lose that entitlement, be respectful, and take the time to learn. Above all, traveling has taught me more about myself, and about my likes and dislikes than anything else. If you allow yourself to be fully immersed in the place you’re traveling to, I guarantee you’ll have an even more exciting experience.
Step 2: Try Getting Away From The Tourist Traps
Now, this one is a bit tricky for a multitude of things. For one, some tourist traps are impossible to avoid. If (when*) I ever go to Paris, I have to see the Eiffel Tower! But there is also a great deal of fun things to do that aren’t completely filled with hitting up 50 “must-see” places in 3 days. Visiting all those places also takes away from your enjoyment of them. I’ve found that the most valuable memories I’ve made are the ones where I’m not hitting the major tourist areas. The most memorable ones were filled with, above all, great stories, laughter, and friendship. The second tricky aspect to get over is safety. Be mindful of the areas you’re in, take safety precautions, use common sense. Now me, personally, I’ve probably bypassed this rule quite a few times—but hey! Do as I say, not as I do! While I’m still alive and had a ton of fun making dumb decisions with new friends, I still shake my head at some of my past traveling decisions. Be smart but go out and explore! Try to stay in an Airbnb that’s not in the super tourist-y areas, for example. Or get a translator, if you have the means! Getting away from the world of tourism isn’t just a great way to learn the culture, it’s a money saver! Wherever you’re traveling—whether it be Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, or anywhere else—prices skyrocket near the tourist traps.
Step 3: Immerse yourself in the culture
Try your hand at a few words in the language if there’s a language barrier. Try the food; it’ll probably taste different there than it does back home. Learn a dance, drink the alcohol, anything! Get out there, lose your inhibitions, and live your best life because it’s too damn short not to! Live fully. Love wholly. Travel purposefully. And, as it was so eloquently stated in the film “We’re the Millers,” no ragrets.