Are you an open minded traveller?
I don't know how many small minded people I've encountered on my travels but if somebody asked me I'd say far too many! and each one is as frustrating as the last. It blows my mind when i hear people complain about other cultures, comparing them to their own with shaking heads and utter disdain; "the pizza isn't anywhere near as good as home" "the beaches are nothing like our ones at home" "the people aren't as friendly as home" "the weather here is so crap compared to home!" the list goes on and on... a never ending list of things that are filed in the negative compartment for the sole reason that they are different to home, ermmm you do realise that you're not at home right? I'd totally get it if the reason for being there wasn't by their choosing and they were unhappy about it... but when you've paid hundreds or even thousands of dollars to go to said place, isn't the whole point so that you can experience something new and different? to take a break from the monotonous 'same s**t different day?' well apparently not. Apparently some people travel to the other side of the world and through some incomprehensible thought process they expect to find no less than all the comforts of home *sigh GET OUT OF YOUR BUBBLE!!! I'm sure you've sensed how infuriated i get when I come across people like that.
If you want to get the most out of the money you've spent to travel then you've gotta leave the tunnel vision at home because honestly if you're totally unwilling to extend your mind in order to accept and embrace new cultures, cuisines, landscapes, people, architecture, history etc then you'd be better off staying at home and saving your money. If you do it right, travel is an investment which you can reap huge rewards and gain from. But if you do it wrong, it's a total waste of money and time. You'll be able to say you went to so and so place and on paper that will be true, but you won't have genuinely experienced it. So, in saying all of that here are nine ways to help you keep an open mind while travelling;
Embrace the weather;
I live in London, I have done now for the last 3 and a half years. I moved here from sunny, warm Australia but you don't hear me complaining about the weather. I couldn't tell you how many times I've had to listen to *cue whiney voice "the weather is so crap here" "it rains allllll the time" (which is a huge exaggeration) "the winter suuccckkks" sure it's nice to be in a warm climate for majority of the year but would I let that one measly, not so desirable factor blind me to everything else that is amazing about London? no! this place rocks! I can deal with a few cold and rainy days here and there in order to enjoy everything that's great about this place. London is notorious for its not so sought after weather, but it's part of it's character! so when it starts drizzling on a spring day that's 2 degrees and blowing a gale, you won't see me with my head down and a sullen look on my face, rather you'll see me giggling to myself because I'm thinking 'ah London, this is so typical' - and that is me keeping an open mind despite the fact that my fingers are numb from the knuckles down. The same can also be said for extremely hot and humid climates, don't complain about it just embrace it! after all it makes for great swimming weather... see, it's all about the attitude you keep.
Always remain respectful;
Every country has its own unique traditions and customs, some are even lawful. Most however are simply practiced by locals as part of an ancient and cherished tradition. It's important to respect these traditions and customs, a lot of tourists don't and locals don't appreciate the ignorance - neither do I! An example of this is that in most churches across Europe it is custom to cover your skin, it's deemed highly inappropriate to enter a sacred place with bare skin. If you plan on visiting a church, wear a maxi dress and take a light shawl to cover your shoulders, fellas you should be ok in a t-shirt (no singlets) and knee length shorts. Of course the worst that will happen in most cases is you'll get shot some disapproving looks and might be refused entry, but I think if you're a genuine traveller you want to learn about and be a part of local traditions so you respect and follow them regardless of knowing that you won't go to prison if you don't.
Eat the local cuisine;
I have travelled with the type of people before who will eat at McDonald's when they are in a place like Tuscany... or Thailand... or Greece. If you're anything like me you're probably shaking your head right now. It's just as annoying when people at least make the effort to go to a local restaurant and then proceed to order a burger and fries, seriously? what's that about? that kind of food in non western cultures isn't even good! the good stuff is the local cuisine for the plainly obvious reason that it's what they cook for themselves, their families, generations and years of making and perfecting these meals - why wouldn't you want to try what they know how to make best? think of yourself trying to make sushi, you might get it done but it won't be anywhere near as good as at a genuine Japanese restaurant. I suppose some people are cautious about trying new things... but like I mentioned before if that's the case then why are you even there? just stay home and eat a burger! at least it'll be a good one. One of my favourite parts about travelling is trying new food, I LOVE food! all food and any food... moussaka in Greece, cured prosciutto in Italy, giant and juicy shrimp in Portugal, all things tapas in Spain, haggis and black pudding in Scotland, pad Thai in Thailand... some of the best meals I've ever eaten have been things that I've ordered without even knowing what it was! of course, you don't always take home a win doing that but majority of the time you do. I can only ever remember one time that ordering something with absolutely no idea of what it was didn't go in my favour....and that was a plate of deepfried mushrooms in Germany! but that's one time out of hundreds. Every other time I've been in taste heaven no matter what ended up on my plate! so try something new, you're missing out big time if you don't.
Learn the basics of the language;
I always find it so rewarding when you speak a foreigners native tongue to them and they respond in said language. They know very well that you're a total amateur but they appreciate that you're trying and respect you for it. You don't need to know full sentences, just the basics like thank you, sorry, hello, and goodbye which are easy to learn and memorise. It's also cool knowing how to order a beer in a new language! that always gets a laugh. Some places you visit may not appreciate you trying to converse in their language as much as others, I myself found that the French didn't entirely appreciate it! but in most other places i would get a warm smile and a response in the native tongue. The Spanish, Greeks, and Germans in particular I found to be very friendly and welcoming people. One more thing, if you immediately start speaking English to a local in a foreign country where they speak another language, it's extremely ignorant and is a big indicator that you're travelling with a narrow mind. If you don't know even the basics of the language at least ask if they speak English first before you start jabbering on - it's so rude not to.
Note the positives, not the negatives;
Instead of complaining about everything that you find undesirable or annoying about a place, try replacing those negative thoughts with positive ones. So everytime you think of something as being 'crap' replace that thought with something about that place you think is cool. E.G; "It's way too humid in Thailand" put that thought aside and instead remember how beautiful it's beaches are. Instead of thinking "French people are so rude" remember how good the food is! Instead of thinking "the weather in London is so crap" remember the incredible vibe of it. There is a positive for every negative and in my opinion the positives ALWAYS outweigh the negatives - by a long shot. With a closed mind though you will only be able to see the negatives.
Learn about and get involved with local customs;
Every culture has its own unique way of doing things, whenever the opportunity arises I strongly suggest getting involved in local traditions - provided of course that it's safe and humane. Some local customs involve terrible animal cruelty; Are you saying yes to animal abuse? be aware on your travels La tomatina in Spain is a fantastic tradition to get involved with, as is plate smashing in Greece, carnival in Rio, a football match in England, Australia Day down under, 4th of July in the US, making pho soup in Vietnam, you get my drift! Get involved with and learn about the way other people from other places live! you might find yourself thinking "this is awesome! why don't we do this?!"
Don't compare things to home;
Such a blatantly obvious but seemingly necessary point to make. You've left your home country for the time being and are now in a entirely new and different environment, don't forget that! Of course it's different to home because it's not home! and different is a good thing.
Think of your trip more as a new learning opportunity rather than just a holiday;
I'm always excited to have a break when I'm going away somewhere, sleep ins and the whole kaboodle. But more than that I'm excited at the prospect of experiencing and learning about a place that I know virtually nothing about! it's exciting venturing into the unknown, knowing that you will leave with new knowledge and experience under your belt and a broader perspective. You'll leave being able to say 'I know that' 'I've seen that' 'I've been there' isn't that the core reason for travel? To see and experience the new and unknown? to learn about the world? travel is a never ending quest for knowledge... I think so anyway!
Avoid being a typical tourist and venture off the beaten track;
There's no doubt that you're going to check out big tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, Buckingham palace... and I'll be the first to say that they are definitely worth seeing! they're not major tourist attractions for nothing. But I urge you to venture a little farther than that, a little off the beaten track and onto the road less travelled because when you do you open the gate to extremely unique and rich travel experiences. One way of doing this is to try and find authentic, non touristy resturants to eat at; 5 invaluable travel tips you'll be glad you knew! other ways of moving away from tourist hourdes is to simply just go for a walk without a plan! get lost... take a map in case you need it to find your way back but only use it if you really need to. It's so rewarding when you're not sure of where you are but eventually, and all on your own you figure it out 🙂 go and see what interesting things you can find away from the hectic crowds. A cute little local coffee shop, a beautiful unfrequented park, an art exhibition, a local street market...