Traveling is the number one way to open your mind and broaden your understanding of the world, in my opinion. When I started traveling in my early twenties, I thought I knew a lot, but once I’d spent time overseas, I learned I knew so little! Most of my knowledge was based on experiences in my home country, which was pretty limited. Traveling and living overseas shows you how different the rest of the world is, and allows you to be more empathetic as a human.
But there are many times I look back on my travels and cringe at the things I said and did. If you’re a newbie traveler, it’s likely you’ll make many of the rookie mistakes I did, and not fully embrace different types of cultures. So here’s a quick guide to being a more open-minded traveler and learning to think outside the box.
An obvious one, but it bears repeating. Learning the language doesn’t mean you have to become fluent, by any means, but learn how to say basics such as hello, thank you, goodbye, and short introductions as a way to bridge the gap between cultures. You can learn more from that starting point, but at least making some effort goes a long way to show you’re trying. Locals often appreciate it, even if you get it wrong, and may help and correct you with their language. Don’t take offense at this, they’re trying to help!
Yes, people eat ‘weird’ food in other countries, but don’t we too?! If you find yourself outraged at people eating insects, dogs, or rabbits, but you’re totally fine with cows, pigs, and chickens, check your standards. Of course, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you get a pass on many local delicacies (it’s a good idea to learn how to explain this in the local language!), but if you want to be an open-minded traveler, try the food! It’s okay if you don’t like it, (be polite), but how will you know if you don’t try?
There’s no greater way to learn about a culture than by spending time with locals. Head to a bar, or sit outside with a beer (if it’s legal, of course!), and get chatting. Stay away from heavy topics in the beginning, like religion and politics, and focus on getting to know the people and their everyday lives. I’ve had countless experiences that have been as simple as a kerbside chat with a shopkeeper that have been integral to my travel experience.
Galleries, museums, landmarks, statues, parks, and memorials are all part of a country’s make up. Look out for cultural sites as you’re exploring the area, as they are great ways to discover a country’s history and culture, often for free. If museums aren’t really your thing, there are plenty of outdoor landmarks to see that might be more up your street.
You may not fully understand the viewpoint of a country’s people until you learn its history. From wars and famine, to dictatorship and colonialism, there are many fabrics woven into a country’s makeup that considerably change the census of its people. Learn a little of this, and you will become more understanding of their feelings.
This is possibly the most important part of becoming a more open-minded traveler, but may also be the hardest. It can be very easy to simply compare something overseas to how you do it back in your home country, and consider it weird or stupid. But using your home country as a measuring gage is never productive or helpful. You’ll simply start resenting your experience and asking why things are done the way they are. What makes your culture so special? How do you know your way is the right way? Check yourself every time you start thinking along these lines, and keep your mind open to new experiences.
I hope you liked my tips on how to be more open-minded as a traveler! Have any more tips of your own? Please let me know yours in the comments below!