We here at Wildland Adventures feel traveling is a privilege and that travelers have the responsibility to be good global citizens when they travel. With that said here are some tips from our staff on how to be a good traveler.
Go with the flow - Turn every delay or deviation into an opportunity; bonding with locals over a long delayed flight in Argentina could result in an invitation to share dinner and drinks at a friend’s house later or a political demonstration blocking the path of a pre-arranged city tour can provide valuable insight into the socio-economic issues present within a country that aren’t addressed in a guide book.
Try everything once - Almost seven years ago I (Kirsten Gardner) sat in a tiny, smoky hut in a remote Burmese village and watched three women chop apart a chicken, tossing bones, skin, entrails, feathers and all into a bubbling pot of curry. This rare treat of protein was being prepared for my friend and I, just two raggedy backpackers who through luck and friendship were privileged to be welcomed as honored guests by the people of Shan Wattee. Neither one of us was a squeamish eater (plus we were pretty hungry) so it was no problem to slurp down the curry, but my point is that when traveling abroad, try and do the opposite of what you would typically do back at home in situations like this. If you can stomach it, leave your normal vegetarian/vegan/lactose/gluten free diet at home and try some of the local foods. If you are generally a shy wallflower type, get out on the samba floor, hop on the slack line or join in the pickup game of futbol. Mark Twain was so, so right when he said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do…”
Celebrate like a local - Check the local country calendar before you travel and see if any holidays or major sporting events coincide with your visit; if so leave that day free to soak them in. This can include anything from camping out in Paucartambo, Peru to participate in the Virgen del Carmen Festival to dancing around the Plaza de Cibeles after a big win by Real Madrid. (Respectfully) attempting to participate as opposed to just being a spectator is a good way to make fast friends and fun memories.
Collect addresses or emails - Then send thank-you notes or postcards from home. If people were kind to you in a foreign country, offer to show the same hospitality should they ever visit your home city. Having a global network of friends is pretty rad.
Study- Read about the culture before you go and learn basic courtesies to enrich your experience and social harmony. You can read novels, mysteries or biographies set there or pour over guidebooks with maps and detailed descriptions of major sites. You’ll get so much more out of the trip if you have even a basic cultural framework and sense of direction.
Come with an open mind - Over the years you may have heard, read and learned a lot about your destination but I guarantee it will be different in some ways than you expect. Local cultures develop over time, often for their benefit, so you can appreciate the cultural aspects as they are today.
Bring Photos - Of your family and place where you live to share with the people you meet. This helps them to understand you better and fulfills their natural curiosity.