Recently I was thinking about my previous travels, all that I've learned from them, and what I wished I could teach other people about them. The truth is that I've learned so much from my travels, from small, unnoticeable changes to large, life-changing moments that I'll keep with me forever. As you know, travel has played a pretty large role in my life; I've seen the ups and downs, the positives and negatives, the happies and sads. During this particular session of nostalgia, I went through all of the above. And while brainstorming, a couple of thoughts stuck out to me. To me, these are pretty valuable things to keep in mind when you're traveling, whether that be internationally or domestically.
Don’t live through your camera lens or iPhone screen
Travel is a beautiful thing, and it’s even more beautiful if you’re seeing it first-hand – and by first-hand I mean not through the screen of your phone or through the lens of your camera. Don’t get me wrong, I love to document my trips through photographs and I enjoy a good Snapchat story, but the first time I see something I want it to be through my own eyes. If I think something is interesting enough to document it I’ll pause, take a photo, and move along. It’s so important to really enjoy your travels, and not travel for the social status. Which brings me to point two…
Traveling is for the soul, not solely for social media
This may seem a little hypocritical since I write a travel blog, but I hardly ever take a photo solely for Mad’s Muses. The photos I take simply make their way onto the blog, and were originally taken for my enjoyment. I want my photos to be unplanned, candid, and genuine – not something I have to structure for my social media sites. I do love to share photographs of my travels, but the photos are essentially for my memory (you know how nostalgic I am!). Planning photos takes the freedom and spontaneity out of travel, which are normally what make trips so extraordinary.
You’re not at home
If you’re traveling abroad, you need to remember that you’re not in America and just because you’re an American doesn’t make you invincible. Do I need to repeat? American does not equal invincibility. Many travelers think that because you come from “the greatest country in the world” that you’re able to do whatever you want, and that couldn’t be more incorrect. Each country, region, and city has its own rules – many of which are very different from those in America. Briefly research the area that you’ll be traveling to so that you get a decent idea of the laws in that region. You’d be surprised what you can find.
Not only are laws different, but cultures are different no matter where you go, even if you’re traveling domestically. I catch a lot of grief over being from the South; my accent is different, my attitude is different, and my style is different. Being different doesn’t necessarily equal bad, but you do need to be aware of certain differences. For example, simple hand gestures in the United States mean something completely different in other areas. Since I'm traveling to Scotland soon I have been researching some cultural differences I may come upon during my trip. Apparently a backward peace sign (like the ones we used to throw in 8th grade… I know you know what I’m talking about) are equivalent to our middle finger. Needless to say, middle-school-me would have been extremely insulting in the United Kingdom. Knowing little things like this, whether you’re in the US or abroad can help you avoid a super awkward encounter.
Last paragraph on this point, promise. Ya gotta remember you're in someone else's homeland, not your own. Treat them with respect. I’ve heard people visit South American countries and call the people who live their “foreigners”. That’s the last thing you want to do. Understand that you’re in their country, their comfort zone, their happy place. You’re not the majority there, they are. Show them respect; they're allowing you to visit their home.
Native speakers appreciate you attempting to speak their language
My experience in non-English speaking countries has always been positive. I only speak English and the tiniest bit of Spanish – just enough to squeak by. But what I’ve learned in these countries is that the native speakers want to hear you try to speak their language. I absolutely do not speak German but when I checked out at a store or paid at a restaurant while traveling in Germany, saying a quick “danke” (“thank you” in German) went a long way. You may get a giggle or two every now and then at your pronunciation, but all in all, it shows native speakers that you're willing to try to assimilate.
Packing light actually does make a trip easier
There’s a story that I like to tell when people tell me that they don’t plan when they pack. I used to be that person, and I had to learn the hard way to pack light. I used to throw every item that I liked at the moment into a suitcase and go from there. I have lived a life full of overweight suitcases. I didn’t learn my lesson until I was dragging a sixty pound bag through a German train station and realized it felt a lot heavier than it should. I looked down and realized the weight of the suitcase had crushed my suitcase’s wheels and they were stuck in their holders, unable to spin. I had to drag my suitcase around for the duration of my trip because it was so heavy that it broke its own wheels. Talk about embarrassing and inconvenient. It’s a funny story now, but it taught me to always pre-pack and only take items that I need. Before my trip to Scotland I’ll be posting a full blog post on packing, so be sure to look for it!
What are your thoughts on my things to remember? Anything you would add? Let me know! xo
Hi, I'm Madeline
Blogger, teacher, writer, traveler, reader. Welcome to Mad's Muses!
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