When visiting a foreign country, strange money, an unknown language and unreadable signs are just a few of the barriers travelers come across. When traveling through different countries with different ways of living, mistakes are inevitable. However, with a little preparation, an open mind and a few helpful tips, mistakes can be limited.
Do not get me wrong; standing in front of Westminster Abbey or Big Ben is great. After all, sightseeing is one of the main reasons people travel.
However, getting off the beaten path is equally important. Leaving touristy areas to take the time to walk into the small shops or strolling down narrow alleyways lets you find the pulse of a country, make unique memories and meet colorful locals.
Getting off the beaten path is where some of the most important events happen which can change a visitor's view of the world forever.
A lot of travelers never get the chance to make friends with locals. In fact, many people shy away when locals approach them. It can seem intimidating and a little overwhelming trying to communicate and not knowing what to expect.
The truth is locals can spot a traveler immediately, and many of them are just as curious about your country as you are about theirs. Tourism is a big part of many countries economy and they want travelers to tell their friends about it.
In my experience, I've learned that 99% of locals are eager to help. Many of them understand that visitors took the time to come to their country, and they want to ensure that they have an amazing and unforgettable adventure.
Do not be afraid to strike up a conversation with locals even if you don't know the language. Hand gestures and smiles are strong tools and more powerful than words.
The first time I traveled to a country that did not speak English, I felt ashamed. I interacted with friendly shopkeepers and cafe owners who spoke broken English, but yet I couldn't even say hello in their language.
It is vital for travelers to at least learn "Hello", "Thank You", and "Goodbye" in the language of the countries they are visiting. Do not be overly concerned about making mistakes; it is one of those rare moments when it is truly the thought that counts.
Amazingly, locals become open and receptive when tourists attempt a few small phrases that take less than ten minutes to learn.
Comparing countries is like comparing fruits to vegetables.
One of the wonderful things about traveling is the fact that it broadens our view of the world. Comparing destinations robs travelers of perceiving all the wonders going on around them and prevents them from living in the moment.
When I hear travelers say things like "Yea the coffee is good, but it is better back home" or "Well that wouldn't have happened where I am from," I just shake my head. Comparing countries does not help anyone and is not what traveling is about.
Traveling helps people expand their perspectives of the world and see places and cultures in a new light. When traveling, we should strive to make a good impression of our own country because it might be the only interaction people have with our culture.
Following these tips will help us avoid some mistakes that a lot of travelers make abroad while exploring different countries. They will also leave a lasting memory on the people we encounter along the way.
What other tips would you add to this list?
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Stephen Schreck is a world traveler, nomad, and adventure backpacker. Knowing a life of aimlessly wandering the globe in search of adventures was the only life for him he set out to make his dream his reality. Currently he is trying to conquer his fears and tackle his bucket list. Follow Stephen's adventures at A Backpacker's Tale or on social media on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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