How To Be A Better Traveler

Category:
Season:

culturallyours podcast how to become a better traveler

CulturallyOurs
How To Be A Better Traveler
/

Show Details

We all know that travel isn’t just about visiting a place and seeing the ‘pretty’ sights. Travel is an opportunity to really engage with, learn about and enrich ourselves with other cultures, lifestyles and communities. And we can do this in so many ways. By eating local foods, connecting with people we meet on our travels that go beyond the hello, learning about communities through interactions as well as visiting places like smaller museums and local art galleries. So on today’s episode, we look at some ways we can become better travelers and get the most out of any travel adventure, beyond just Instagram worth photos.

Show Notes

In today’s episode we look at ways we can become better travelers and explorers. Travel isn’t just about visiting a place and seeing the ‘pretty’ sights. Travel is an opportunity to really engage with, learn about and enrich ourselves with other cultures, lifestyles and communities. By eating local foods, connecting with people we meet on our travels that go beyond the hello, learning about communities through interactions as well as visiting places like smaller museums and local art galleries.

The Transcript

We are almost done with Season 05 of the CulturallyOurs Podcast which is all about travel around the world from a local’s perspective and I have to say, it is probably one of my favorite seasons thus far. Yes, we are all home bound and limited in our travel adventures but listening to people, locals all over the world, sharing a glimpse of their home country or even their city, has been such a refreshing shift in my travel mindset. Sure, I now want to go experience all the places we have been to virtually – from Greece to Scotland to Iceland to Slovenia and beyond. But more than actually traveling, I am so thrilled with the knowledge that I have connected with people all over the world – learning about their lives in the places that they live and hearing their pride in their home country.

Travel isn’t just about visiting a place and seeing the ‘pretty’ sights. Travel is an opportunity to really engage with, learn about and enrich ourselves with other cultures, lifestyles and communities. And we can do this in so many ways. By eating local foods, connecting with people we meet on our travels that go beyond the hello, learning about communities through interactions as well as visiting places like smaller museums and local art galleries. All these things help us become better travelers in the long run, right?

So on today’s episode, we are going to look at some other ways we can become better travelers and get the most out of any travel adventure, beyond just Instagram worth photos.

Here are some ways we, as a community, can travel better and get more from all our future adventures.

#1 Research your destination beyond the obvious

Travel research doesn’t just mean ‘Top 10 places to visit’ or ‘Best Restaurants to try’ or even ‘Top experiences to be had’ in a particular location. That is just the surface of a travel research. Instead travel research should give you enough information about the people, communities, cultures and the land that you are planning to visit. Read up on a country’s customs and manners before visiting. While reading about a place isn’t substitute for experiencing it firsthand, it is important to learn some tips about the culture before arriving. Last year I had the honor of visiting Sri Lanka with the Sri Lankan Tourism board. Funny thing is that even though I am Indian, I had never been to the little pearl shaped island in the Indian subcontinent. As part of our orientation before the trip, the tourism board sent us detailed information on what to expect while visiting the country. One of the things they called out was the fact that all the religious places especially Buddhist temples require us to wear white or pastel colors as a sign of purity and peace in Buddhism as well as cover our shoulders and feet. So, no shorts or tank tops. This was really helpful as we knew what to expect and in turn, helped us understand the norms and customs in Sri Lanka.

Researching destinations beyond the obvious also helps you uncover hidden gems – places that are not all over the tourist map for some really unique experiences and adventures.

#2 Be courteous and respectful in all your interactions

It is important to note that English is not the official language in many countries around the world. So, when you are traveling to a place that is a non-English speaking country, have patience when the locals don’t speak English. Remember travel is a privilege and not a birth right. You, the traveler, are there to experience something new and wonderful. So, respect the culture and try your best to communicate. Use hand signals, drawings and what little words you can exchange. And try not to get easily frustrated when no one understands you. A good practice would be to learn some basic words in the language of the place you are visiting to help make the transition easy.

In many countries I have visited, sometimes travelers forget they are in a foreign land and are often yelling, demanding, swearing, and even speaking at high volumes in the streets, in hotel rooms with thin walls and even in places of worship. While visiting new countries, more self-awareness should be considered, especially to respect another culture’s way of life.

A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t do something at home, don’t do it on your travels.

#3 Be fearless and also cautious in your interactions

Remember to be friendly and smile. If you are female solo traveler, then this might not be the best thing to do in every situation so be sure to use your own judgement. Say hello to fellow travelers and meet locals. They are often some of the best sources of new travel tips and information. What better way to learn about a culture than talk to those who live there? Some of my best adventures come from conversations with people I have met along the way. And no matter where you go, a smile is a great way to break the ice.

Be genuinely curious about your interactions but also be aware. Some of my most epic adventures have come from planning to go and do one activity, that then resulted in something entirely unexpected. Like the time when my taxi driver overhead my conversation about missing a particular meal which was a local delicacy and then proceed to invite me to his home for dinner. He made me talk to his wife on the phone who extended an invitation, and it was such a great experience to really connect with his family. Difficulties often lead to some of the greatest travel rewards when globetrotting.

After all, is this one of the major reasons to travel – to grow and explore and open your mind.

#4 Be an authentic photographer

As a photographer, this one really speaks to me especially when I travel. Try your best to connect with your subject, not just take aimless shots of people right in their face without regard because you want to get the perfect shot. I see this happening so often when I travel back home to India. I remember this one instance in Varanasi where so many photographers with big cameras were encroaching on people praying and bathing in the Ganga without even trying to connect with their subject and just moving from one face to the next.

It is never okay to just snap away in people’s faces without any sort of human contact or connection. And worse yet is staging the shot to get that one shot you think is going to make it big. Staged photos are a dime a dozen all over social media and to me, are worthless and immemorable. Wouldn’t it have been more authentic to just go out and experience real moments that make wonderful memories. Photos are just an added bonus, right? Isn’t the whole point of the trip to have a grand adventure. Staged pictures go against everything we believe in when taking travel photos.

Capture the moment as it plays out – focus on the true experience, no someone else’s idea of the truth.

#5 Practice ethical tourism especially with respect to wildlife

It is no surprise that as humans we love animals. Especially wildlife. There is something so majestic and awe-inspiring about seeing animals in the wild. However, wildlife tourism exploitation is a real thing where wildlife that should be free and wild, are in fact captured and caged just for tourism. Taking a photo with a lion cub or riding an elephant or even swimming with dolphins is considered as a thrill of a lifetime for so many people. But almost always these experiences have devastating effects on wildlife. Often kidnapped and separated at birth or even worse bred in captivity, these animals and so many others, are subjected to a life worse than a living hell, just for the sake of tourism revenue. Before you take part in such activities, do your research. Any experience that involves touching wild animals is almost always a red flag. Research the service provider, research the institution and even research the location to make sure what you are consider as ‘ethical wildlife tourism’ is in fact ethical. Make sure wildlife safari providers and even game reserves are indeed setup correctly and follow the proper protocol as set by the governing body. And remember when in doubt, it is best to not engage in these wildlife tourism practices.

Now its your turn, how do you plan to improve your travel adventures and make the most of your trips?

Leave your comments below