The great thing about travel is that it knocks you off your damn high horse. It makes you rethink just how cool you are. And although your Instagram photos of beautiful backdrops and cute clothes make others envy you, travel can make you feel self conscious. Travel gives us the opportunity to push boundaries. It shows us a different way of doing things. The more we keep this mindset while roaming through our own country or abroad, the more we are able to learn. Here are eight tips for traveling with a political mindset:
Get out of your comfort zone – ditch the tourist spots
I’m not saying ditch the tourist spots all together, because let’s face it, we all need a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower! But, pushing ourselves a bit out of our boundaries and comfort zones is equally as important. Traveling with a political mindset means stepping out of the usual tourist areas and into lesser known parts of a country or city. Finding the hidden spots or just exploring the less popular areas can be even more rewarding. I’ve found so many hidden gems and favorite restaurants getting away from the tourist areas and trying to roam around on my own.
Catch up with the latest gossip
Whether you’re into the tabloids or the news, catching up with a country’s “latest gossip” can help us understand more of social and cultural norms. Before going on your next trip, try and read a few of the latest articles about the country or city to understand what’s going on there. Although we are all “tourists” who are only visiting for a short time, don’t you want to understand what’s going on in a country when you visit? For me, I also need to get better at this. Before visiting a country, I usually try to do a bit of research about pop culture or trends that are going on – which helps me understand the culture a bit more.
Connect with people
Travel isn’t just about checking things off your bucket list, eating the local food, or getting drunk in a different country.
Although those things are fun, too!For me, travel is about making connections and building relationships with people from all over the world. Connecting with people from different walks of life who are just visiting a place like I am, have lived there their entire lives, or are starting to call this place home, it gives me different perspectives of a country. Talking to locals and understanding more of their history, their every day life, and finding their favorite places is the drive that makes me want to travel even more. It’s all about building relationships and connecting, y’all!
Kick your ethnocentrism to the curb
I’ve talked about ethnocentrism before, but it’s always one of the biggest factors I think about while traveling. Ethnocentrism is the belief that your culture is better than another person’s culture. It’s the thought that your culture does things the “right” way, and someone else’s culture does things the “wrong” way. If there’s anything that travel will do to you, it will make you think about your own ethnocentrism. Next time you take a trip somewhere, try to think about the moments where you’ve thought that certain parts of a culture were “weird” or “wrong”. Now, try to understand those parts of the culture.
Invest in the local economy
As travelers, we’re some of the lucky and very privileged to be able visit other countries, or even other cities. Most people can’t do what we’re doing, nor can they afford it. This definitely rings true when we visit less developed countries, that have high poverty and low wages. The best thing we can do is to invest in the local economy. This could mean booking tours with local travel agencies, buying homemade products (ie: clothing, jewelry, etc), or eating at local restaurants. By doing this, we feed back into the country’s economy even more, which helps create jobs and ultimately helps to improve poverty levels.
Embrace cultural differences
Cultural differences are what make traveling so intriguing and fun! How many times do we experience some sort of uncomfortable cultural difference or a bit of a culture shock? Embrace the cultural differences in any place that you visit. If they eat lunch at 2pm in Spain, give it a try. No utensils? Try eating with your hands. At a restaurant in Vietnam and everyone is sitting on the floor enjoying their meal? Give it a try! Embrace the cultural differences you’l experience while traveling and appreciate them!
Ask someone what THEIR dream is
Coming from the United States, everyone knows about the “American Dream”. Throughout the years, the dream has certainly changed, but the idea/concept is still there. In different countries, the “American Dream” doesn’t exist. While you’re connecting with other people, ask them what THEIR dream is. Sharing heart to heart conversations late at night over a bottle of wine, is the fastest way to understand and learn. Hearing about the “American Dream” of different countries can help us understand certain parts of their culture that we may never have thought to understand.
Learn a bit of the language and cultural customs
Something that I always try to do is learn a bit of the language of any country that I go. Considering that I can’t memorize everything, or teach myself everything, learning important phrases is always important. Some words and phrases that I always try to pick up are: hello, goodbye, please, thank you, where is the bathroom, beer, and basic directions (ie: left, right, straight, etc). You may not think knowing directions are TOO important, but trust me, when you’re walking around at 3am to figure out how to get to the airport for an early flight, it can come in handy. Another aspect I try to learn are some cultural customs. This could range from social norms, social interactions, or traditions that the country takes part in.
For me, my type of traveling is more than snapping pretty pictures. It’s less about crossing off bucket list items, and more about meeting and connecting with people. They’re the ones that create an unforgettable experience for me, anywhere I go. Traveling with a political mindset, especially now, is so important. As we are consuming more and more media, with biases and opinions (just like this blog), it’s important to make our own conclusions. When we travel it helps break down stereotypes and really pushes us to keep an open mind.
What are a few ways that you can keep a political mindset while traveling?
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