I love traveling, especially traveling to other countries. As of now, I’ve traveled to 21 different countries. And I want to travel to more! It’s fantastic to be able to set foot into a place where you’re not from and to immerse yourself with the culture and people there.
Unless you choose not to.
There’s a bit of an unsaid privilege when it comes to traveling to another place. The place you are traveling to offers its space and resources to you. You get to the place, stay there for the duration of the time that you’re set to stay (whether it’d be less than a day or a month), take pictures, and go back home with whatever souvenirs and pictures you bought and took.
Mark Twain said this fantastic quote, which I will post here:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
It’s true that you do not learn much if you just stay where you are your entire life. You truly do learn a lot when you explore other places.
However, how much of the culture and the people did you actually engage yourself with? How much of what you experienced do you actually take with you? Do you actually understand the significance of the castle that you set foot in when you visited it? Do you actually take the time to learn the different cultural celebrations that take place in the country you visited? Why they cook certain kinds of food more than others? Do you actually take in what you experience or do you just come back the same as when you went?
Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking pictures, enjoying yourself, and having a good time. But, be mindful of where you are. Don’t take advantage of another’s culture for your own personal enjoyment. If you go somewhere and refuse to engage with the culture or you reinforce negative biases and stereotypes, then you’re doing traveling wrong.
I’m guilty of being ignorant when traveling. When I’m back home and blog about my travel experiences, they’re all superficial descriptions. Now, when I initially created this blog, I simply wanted somewhere to put my photos, because I take a lot. However, now as I look back on my blog posts, I wish I was able to engage with the locals and ask about their favorite experiences of living there, learn some words of the language spoken there, and actually remember the history behind all the castles and places I’ve visited with the audio guides. Not that I didn’t do that when I was there, but whenever I share with people my travel experiences, it’s always done through witty and shallow Instagram captions and details about the weather, food, and drinks. Not that details about the weather, food, and drinks aren’t important, it’s just that nothing about culture comes up.
My mistake is often I do little to no research about the places that I am traveling to. I encourage you all to not just research good food places or sights to see, but to also research the significance of the sights and places you will be visiting. I also encourage you to not just go to the touristy places and to let yourself wander in the side streets (with caution, of course) and places where little to no tourists go.
Finally, please forget your preconceived notions, biases, and stereotypes of the people and the place that you are going to. I cannot stress that enough. Do not assume that you know how the people are. For example, I recently went to Japan, and the people there were polite and quiet. That does not mean that all Japanese people are polite and quiet. That does not mean you can make the assumption that they are subservient or that since the Japanese are that way, it must mean that all Asian people are polite and quiet. No. Please do not make assumptions.
So the next time you travel, be more mindful of where you are and what you are doing. It is a privilege to be able to travel to another place, whether for business or for leisure.