You’ve just booked the vacation of a lifetime. Whether you’re traveling with friends, family, or alone, you’ll surely want to learn about the local culture, meet new people, and experience new traditions. Check out the following tips to immerse yourself in the culture of your travel destination and get the most out of your trip.
1. Learn the Language
English is spoken all over the world, and English speaking tourists can often get by at tourist destinations without knowing the native language. Even so, speaking the language will enrich your experience in countless ways. It can help you make new friends – locals in most places will be happy to help you practice speaking. Trying to communicate in the native language is polite to the local population. By taking the trouble to learn some basic phrases, you can show your respect for and interest in the local culture.
Learning the local language will also let you seek out unique events and experiences. Instead of sticking with the sites and events recommended by tour guides and travel magazines, you’ll have access to dozens of local events and activities advertised in newspapers and signs that are written in the native language.
2. Let Yourself Get Lost
Sticking to the beaten path may seem like the safe way to travel, but there’s no harm in letting yourself get a little bit lost. Instead of sticking with strictly planned tours, leave a little time to wander. You’ll stumble across new places, people and things that you would have never discovered otherwise.
3. Embrace the Differences
No matter where you travel, local customs and norms are bound to be different than what you’re accustomed to at home. Culture goes beyond food, religion and art. If something doesn’t go according to plan, take it lightly. Everything is part of the experience.
4. Say “Yes”
One of the best ways to get to know culture is by building friendships with the people you meet in your travels. This is especially important if you plan to be traveling for a long period of time, either as a tourist, a student or a volunteer. Try playing a game with yourself: If someone invites you to visit a new place, try a new activity, or taste a new food, the answer is always “yes.” I created this “rule” for myself as an American student studying in Mexico. Just saying “yes” to friendly invitations led me to a myriad of adventures that I would never have experienced otherwise.
Of course, it’s also important to remember when you have to say “no” to an invitation while traveling. If something seems unsafe to you, trust your instincts.
5. Stay safe
No matter what, it is important to remember that safety comes first when traveling. Keep your valuables in a safe place, and do not display expensive or expensive-looking items. It’s always best to travel with a trusted companion, and avoid walking alone at night or in dangerous areas. Keep your mind open and your wits about you, and you’ll have a safe yet exciting adventure.