Learn to connect with travel by accepting that things will be different. THAT’S WHY YOU’RE TRAVELING!!! At least we hope it is. Sorry for shouting, but we feel strongly about this.
We have met people who are traveling just so they can tick one more country off their list and impress the neighbors, but wow, what a waste not to connect with travel and really learn something.
You don’t have to be traveling on your own to connect. You can find ways to learn about local customs and people if you’re on a tour.
Ask questions… don’t be shy. If you’re strolling through a local market in Borneo, and you don’t know what that fruit is…. ask. People love to share their culture with you if you show an interest. You might even end up with a taste… though if it’s durian you might want to pass.
Talk to local workers instead of just taking pictures of them. On the waterfront of Dubai Creek, we wanted to take pictures of the old wooden dhows. My hubby started chatting with the dock workers. Next he was helping them load boxes onto the dhows, and we were talking politics…. The American tourists making friends with the Iranian and Pakistani dock workers! We were having fun, and they now had a slightly better view of Americans.
Instead of rushing in and out of a famous church before the service begins, linger and listen. In Munich one time, we were about to leave a church because the service was ready to start, but a local invited us to stay for something “Frei”. We weren’t sure what it was, but it was free. We stayed and enjoyed the most fantastic Mozart concert you can imagine.
Join in the evening “paseo” in Italy, Spain and all of southern Europe. Locals stroll and stop to chat with each other. Smile and nod, you might strike up a conversation. Ask the locals where they go for dinner. That small local place can be a real prize even if you can’t read the menu.
Instead of saying “It’s all Greek to me,” get friendly and curious. In a little town in Greece where no one spoke English, we ditched the menu and went into the kitchen…. then we just pointed to what we wanted to eat…. it was absolutely wonderful… and so cheap we thought they had made a mistake on the bill.
Visit a supermarket. It’s fun to see what they’re selling and how they sell it. Look around to see what’s really different and what’s pretty much the same.
Accept invitations. We were invited to visit a local school in Nairobi by some teachers we just happened to meet. When we got to the school, each of the classes had prepared a song or a skit for us. It was a real eye opener when the 2nd graders did a poem about AIDS, but what a wonderful experience we would have missed if we had been shy and said no.
After school we went with the teachers to a local African sports bar. Our safari was wonderful, but the school experience really allowed us to connect with travel and the local culture.
So break out of your shell, try something different, talk to strangers…. really connect with travel.