Don’t be a typical tourist

Rickshaw on the street in front of a food vendor in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. /
Tuul and Bruno Morandi (Getty Images)

“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.”  – Mark Twain

Experiencing the culture of a foreign country is truly special, but why?

Independence

Traveling abroad requires you to step out of your comfort zone to accomplish everyday tasks. When you travel, you are required to interact with new people. The challenge of stepping out of your comfort zone to meet new people and speak to them in a different language allows for you to be more comfortable around strangers all around the world, including your home country.

Perspective

Experiencing different traditions gives you new insight to cultures of the world. After exploring another country, it is impossible to see the world the same Leaving America to see the world helps you view your country in a new light, for better or worse, giving you a greater appreciation for things previously taken for granted.

Talking with natives also helps you to see your own country through another set of eyes.

Traveling abroad allows for you to see the differences in foreign cultures for yourself. Actually live the culture. Immerse yourself. Do not solely rely on double-decker bus, tourist-designed museum visits and quick food stops. Travel in a rickshaw, eat the local street food and live with the people. You cannot truly experience a culture if you live at chain hotels, eat at globalized restaurants or travel primarily by car. If you distance yourself from the world the locals live in, then it is impossible to understand them, thus, making it impossible to explore and truly understand the culture. If you step out of your comfort zone and live your day to day life just as a native would in their country, it will open the door to a new world perspective.

Language

Charlemagne once said, “To have a second language is to possess a second soul.”

Learning a new language allows you to see another culture with a new set of eyes as if you are being submerged into a whole new world.

Immersion into a new language can be one of the most difficult challenges you face in a foreign country, but it is also the most rewarding, once conquered. At first, it will be difficult to express yourself effectively in a conversation due to your inability to convey your message clearly and properly. However, once you overcome that fear of stepping out of your comfort zone, the possibilities are endless. When learning another language, you learn new ideas through words that have no English translation and craft the culture. When visiting a new country, be willing to step out, learn a new language, and see the reward for yourself.

Relationships

When traveling to another country, you are forced to branch out and interact with people you would never talk to otherwise. Talk to them, listen to their stories and understand them. Having relationships with people from across the world will enable you to see things from different perspectives and broaden your worldview.

Personal Development

Overcoming these challenges and leaving your bubble brings both your strengths and weaknesses to light, helping you to become more self-aware and grow as a person. Among the many benefits of traveling, you will gain precious, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, memories and stories, thus creating a more interesting, well-rounded, cultured version of yourself.

All these irreplaceable experiences ensure that you acquire a key trait crucial to overall happiness: adaptability. Adaptability and an open mind will guarantee that you can overcome anything.

-Tanya Tandon

Photo credits: Tuul and Bruno Morandi (Getty Images)

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