Mark Twain once said, “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 can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
And it’s true: travel helps you understand life from the eyes of a different person. It helps you cultivate a deeper sense of the world around us and find a commonality with people from around the world. When you travel, you broaden your horizons, your knowledge base, and your palate!
Deepening your travel experience not only gives you a more pleasurable vacation, it also helps you maximize your budget. From traveling around with public transport to eating where the locals do, you’ll find that everything’s cheaper than the places tourists flock to.
There are many ways to deepen your travel experience and help avoid obvious tourist traps.
But First, Wake Up Early!
Most travelers go on vacation so that they can sleep in, but if you’re looking to explore the sights, wake up bright and early! Take this as an opportunity to fix your body clock and get your daily dose of 10k steps.
Walking around the cities in the morning also helps you maximize your day. Who knows, you might even find the best breakfast you’ve ever had in your life!
As Much as Possible, Take Public Transport
It might be tempting to take a taxi everywhere you go, but you would miss it out on so much of the local culture and flavor!
Public transport is the best way to experience the local life; it gives you a preview of how the everyday person lives their life and, if you’re lucky, the public bus or train or tram will show you sides of the city that a taxi would not be able to. Think of it as a very cheap but very comprehensive way to see the city that you’re traveling in.
Taking public transport also helps you blend in. Blending in at your destination helps you understand local life and helps you appreciate life from a different perspective. This allows you to live life differently from your usual routine and give you an experience you’re not going to forget anytime soon.
Don’t be afraid if you don’t know the way: you’d be surprised how many locals would be willing to help out a lost traveler. In more developed countries, their public transport maps will be very detailed and it will be hard to get lost. If all else fails, Google is your friend. There are plenty of helpful resources online about transport maps and best ways to get around any city.
If you get lost, that’s ok. Ask the locals! This is also a good chance to practice your language skills. Speaking of which…
Learn About the Culture
The language barrier can intimidate a lot of first-time travelers, and it makes sense: it’s scary to get lost when all the street signs are in a different language. But this is an easy fix: most cities will have helpful locals who can point you in the right direction. Learning a few key phrases (like, where’s the embassy, or, where’s the bathroom) in the local language takes only a few hours of your time and it’s something that you can learn on the plane ride going.
Or, if all else fails, just bring a phrase book around! Learning the local language helps you appreciate the culture more deeply, as this helps you vocalize and understand much of the locals emotions and thoughts. You’d be surprised how chatty people get when you speak the same language!
Another great way to appreciate the culture of the place you’re visiting is to learn about its history. Again, this is something you can do beforehand, or even on the plane ride going. Find books or documentaries about the place you’re visiting, as these will give you a richer experience once you arrive. Read travel blogs and get tips on the best historical sites from seasoned travelers and expand your knowledge on local cultures and customs.
Food is another great way to learn about the culture. Go where the locals go and eat what they do. Usually, local food places are much cheaper and give you a better experience than tourist places. Be brave! Try all the weird and wonderful foods from around the world.
This helps you integrate with the locals more and helps you grasp their strange-at-first culture. Over time, you’ll find that you have more in common than difference with a people from across the world.
Curiosity is Your Friend
Remember: Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back! Every traveler’s best friend is curiosity, so you should take your travels as an opportunity to learn more about the place you’re traveling in. Get off the beaten path and stray away from the tourist traps: ride a tram without a fixed destination, check out that local market that everyone seems to be going to, and never pass up an opportunity to eat the local fare!
Of course, always keep your wits about you: no matter where you go, there will always be someone looking to take advantage. However, this is something that a healthy dose of street smarts will fix. Always temper your realism with courage and curiosity; don’t let language barriers or new foods scare you. Fortune favors the bold, after all! Take risks, but be smart about it, and you will find your wanderlust rewarded with a rich experience.
Wanderlust is a beautiful thing; it helps you appreciate the world we live in and be more open to new experiences and people. There’s no one right way of traveling, so forge your own path and develop your own method of traveling.
When you can, find the time to write about your travels! The best way to even deepen your travel experience is by writing it down and processing it by reading your thoughts. When you do, send us your story!