So you’re off on your grand adventure to a country you’ve never been to (or maybe you’ve been a thousand times and keep going back for more!), and you want to get the best out of the trip. One of the most important things to remember when you’re going traveling is that it’s a foreign land and it’s going to be different. Some things will be similar to home, while others will be vastly different, and it can be upsetting if you aren’t prepared or you have rigid, uncompromising opinions on certain aspects. There is nothing wrong with having opinions that you stand firmly for, but when traveling, it’s important to understand that not everything is done across the globe the same way it is done back home, and that is part of the culture you’re hoping to experience (and be welcomed into).
Some of the things you might see
You’re probably going to see a lot of things that can be shocking from the offset, especially if you’re new to the world of traveling, so I’m just going to lay it flat out. You’re probably going to see poverty depending where you go, and sometimes the level of poverty is staggering and shocking, as well as eye-opening. Animal rights may not exist in the country you’re going to, or if they do they are significantly less than animal rights in countries like Canada, the USA or Western Europe so you may see animals treated badly, left in the blazing sun in rough conditions with no water and the like. It’s upsetting and shocking, but it’s just something that happens. A lot of countries still use animals as work animals, so you may see a lot of use of animals in the field and such. Goats might come into the restaurant while you’re eating dinner, monkeys might try to steal your camera. Stuff like that is part of the experience.
What about the cultures themselves?
One of the most important things to remember about traveling is respect. Respecting the cultures and their traditions is integral to the traveling experience. No one wants to hear that they shouldn’t be wearing X item of clothing because you think it’s not right or that “if you lived in my country, you wouldn’t be allowed to wear that” kind of talk. You aren’t in your country and it’s important to remember this. It’s also important to remember to dress accordingly if you plan to visit religious sites. You wouldn’t be allowed into the Vatican wearing shorts as either a man or woman and so you should consider this when visiting temples in places like Laos, Thailand or Myanmar. It’s not the beach, so don’t dress for the beach if you want to go on a temple tour. In many cases you won’t be bothered by the locals if you do, but it’s all about respecting the place you’re in, and some travellers to places like those mentioned above are becoming less and less respectful of places of worship – which are used daily by locals – which ruins the experience for everyone, including other travellers.
So in all, the most important mindset is an open mindset. Things are going to be strange – and wonderful – around the world and you can control how you react to these new and wondrous encounters to ensure you have the best possible experience. Have fun, and good luck!