Meet people! And I don’t mean just the people in the hotel room next to you or the boy you met while you were in the swimming pool for 6 hours, but people that live in the state or the country you’re in. If you want an insight into what is truly going on in that part of the world, mingle with the natives and get to know their story. People are soooo interesting and have so much to share if you open and minded and if you let them.
If you can, try to stay away from a hotel. Hotels truly limit your experience, and your perception because all you can see or experience is what the hotel offers you. If you are looking for a safe place to stay, look into Air BnB’s, Couchsurfing, or
Hostels, depending on the country. These sites allow you to stay in legitimate housing and get a real world experience outside of a comfy hotel.
Natives will take you to places and show you sights that are absolutely breathtaking. This ranges from the top of a mountain, a rain forest, an unpopular beach, a tasty restaurant, and everything in between. Hotel packages will offer you touristy sights, and charge you an insane amount of money to see them! However, no matter what you choose, as you take pictures of all of these sights, make sure you are remember to actually experience these sights in real time. This means don’t take so many pictures that you forget to exist in the moment.
As your travels continue you will make so many mistakes, whether it be running into a tree with an ATV on a dirt road in Mexico, ordering the wrong dish while you’re trying to speak in a different language, falling in love with a native who already has a significant other, or just picking the wrong person to call your friend. We are human and we are not going to get it right EVERY single time. Exploring outside of your hotel will increase your chances of making those imperative mistakes so that you can reflect, learn, and grow from them.
Food is also a culture of its own. Different places have different etiquette when it comes to food and the language surrounding it. For example, what better way to learn how to make ceviche, than sitting at a table with a family of Mexicans, drinking cerveza, and attempting to speak Spanish as you ask for the recipe. This sounds like a WAY better food experience than eating expensive frozen hotel food.
Taking a walk in someone’s shoes is by far the best way to develop empathy and to understand where someone is coming from, and in a foreign setting, you have a real chance to understand the people and the country that you are visiting. This goes back to the point of meeting people, and why it is so important. I believe that being empathetic towards someone and their situation is one of the best way techniques of getting to know and understand someone on a deeper level.
95% of the time, you will have better stories when you venture off of the hotel property. Not only is the property restricting, but so are the stories on it since there is only so much you can do! How can you tell the story of how you hopped on the back of that person’s motorcycle and witness Miami’s beautiful Downtown on a Saturday night if you stay in your hotel by the Jacuzzi all of the time?
As you’re at that same table, you have the chance to take a look around you and soak everything in. Notice all of the difference of the culture you’re experiencing and embrace them. Take notice of how the natives greet each other, interact, their personal space, their movement, their touch (or lack of) and take all of that in. Appreciating someone’s culture helps you take define what you may like, or don’t like about your own. This in itself can tell you a lot about you. Do you like to give kisses when you greet? Do you prefer to have a lot of personal space when engaging in a conversation? All of these things will help you understand who you are at your core.
Also, it is never good to be deemed as a “culture vulture” but don’t be scared to express what you like or find interesting about another culture. If you decide to adapt something from another culture realize that it is of appreciation, and admiration, not to be spiteful or take credit for something that isn’t yours. Just remember to give credit where credit is due, and you’ll be fine.
Don’t get me wrong, hotels are cool, and offer a “safer” space (if you want to look at it that way) but by being cooped up on your hotel property, you are robbing yourself of all the adventure that awaits you, and the memories that are waiting to be created.
What else can a typical hotel stay hinder you from?
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