I thought I would break up my China posts for a day and talk about something else. One of the reasons why I love traveling so much is because I get to experience the world in a different way. I get to experience new customs and new cultures which I feel makes me a better and wiser person. There’s a lot that we read and hear about when it comes to other parts of the world but actually visiting and experiencing another country in person is quite different. I always heard and read about China becoming the next super power but after spending a month traveling all around China I am far from convinced that China is going to take over the world. I heard about how crazy and unsafe Turkey was yet when I got there it was one of the most remarkable places I have ever visited. It was safe, the people were great, the food was terrific, and the country itself with all of its sites and landmarks was nothing short of breathtaking. My point is that you should NEVER judge or make a travel destination choice based on what you read or hear about in the media. Do your own research and make up your own mind.
When you travel to another part of the world one of the most important things you need to remember is to keep an open mind. You have to understand that the way things work in Germany or Croatia is not the way things work back at home. In Europe for example you will experience dinners that start at 9pm, paid public restrooms, and a much more open and friendly vibe. In China you will see and hear everyone spitting whenever and wherever they want and if you want to use the restroom you should pretty much expect to squat over a hole in the ground, literally. Every part of the world is different and you need to remember that when you travel.
The point is not to judge, criticize, or put down any of these cultures or experiences. You have to make them a part of your trip and a part of your journey. Most of the interesting stories that I (and other people) have from visiting other countries revolve around culture and a “different” way of doing things. One of the main reasons people travel is to see and experience other parts of the world and to explore new cultures and customs. If you really want to do this then you absolutely must have an open and respectful mind. Don’t complain that you are being charged to use a restroom, don’t send back the chicken curry with chicken feet in it, and don’t be offended if someone hugs you. Traveling to another part of the world without experiencing new customs and cultures is not really traveling, it’s merely a change of scenery and if that’s all you care about then here are millions of flickr photos for you to stare at.
So how do you prepare yourself to experience the new and the unfamiliar? Again, the first step is to keep an open and respectful mind.
One of the best ways to prepare yourself for new cultures and customs prior to a trip is by doing a bit a bit of research. Before traveling to any location I would recommend visiting Amazon.com or your local bookstore to pick up a Lonely Planet (or any other) guide book. These guide books are great for giving you an overview of the country you are about to visit and cover everything from cultures and customs to accommodations and things/places to avoid. I usually pick up a guide book before visiting any travel destination and read through it while traveling on a plain or train from one destination to another. You obviously don’t need to learn everything about the place you are going to visit but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with a few things so that you will know what to expect.
Embrace and welcome the unfamiliar and the unexpected and I promise your travel experience will be more enjoyable and fulfilling.