Be More Than Just A Tourist
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Politics and Activism

Be More Than Just A Tourist

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Be More Than Just A Tourist

The first time I traveled abroad by myself, I was nine years old. My mom and dad sent me off with a nice flight attendant, and a few hours later I was in being picked up by a (very friendly and trustworthy) distant cousin in a different country whose language I didn't speak. I never once regretted the month I spent alone and away from home, and I blame that experience for my never-ending love for traveling. Going abroad by myself at such a young age was not only the foundation of my extremely independent personality and obsession with exploring different places; it was also the first part of a lifelong lesson in getting to know different cultures and how to approach new experiences.

Taking off my foreign goggles is a valuable lesson and something I try to do whenever I travel. When going to new places, it is important to not view it through the eyes of a foreigner, comparing it to everything we know from back home. Being shown Italy at a young age by locals allowed me to see the country as it was viewed by the people who lived there. I did not think of anything as right or wrong, I merely thought of it as the way it was done there.

Whenever I go to a new place, I remind myself that different cultures are never wrong; they are simply different. We have a habit of considering the way we do things in our culture and in our home as right, forgetting that the world is a combination of different people all together and that this diversity is what makes life interesting. I believe that when we go to a new country, we are guests. And as guests, we do not have the right to complain about the way things are done there. The people are allowing us to visit where they live, and we do not have the right to say, "But back home this is not how it is done."

We need to remind ourselves that oftentimes when we travel, we are being shown a very small part of everyday life and habits of the place we are visiting. We should not presume to know everything about this different culture and we should take care to not make generalizations. Unless we are fully integrated into the place we are visiting, what right do we have to claim to know the culture well?

I am also a firm supporter of immersing myself into the place I'm visiting, particularly if I am participating in a live or study abroad experience. An exchange opportunity is only fully enjoyed if one actually gets to know the people in an experience deeper than short communication. Going to a different country and only spending time with people from your home is a wasted opportunity in acquiring new experiences, knowledge and, most importantly, making new friends.

I believe traveling is good for the soul, the body, the mind and the heart. However, I find that we must always seek to be more than mere tourists. We should always aim for immersing ourselves in the cultures we visit and be open minded to a new way of seeing the world. I do not claim to be the perfect traveler and I am positive that I still have much to learn about traveling and discovering. But I am going to keep exploring and trying to get to know as many people, places and ways of life as I can, always seeking to be more open minded than before.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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