In our travels, we've encountered so many wonderful people, from different cultures and places. While we're always excited to learn from these interactions, we've noticed that most of the people we meet fall into one of two categories: the travelers and the tourists. At first blush, you may wonder what the difference is. Well, we have one word for you: empathy.
Below are top 5 rules for being a traveler not a tourist:
1. Learn the language. Even a few words will make your hosts happy and more warm towards you. The words that will get you the most places include ordering good and drink, along with the usual pleasantries, like “please” and “hello”. Our best advice is to point to things and ask "how do you say X in Y language? For example, Tim asked a couple sitting next to us at dinner in Seville what they were eating, and alas, our love affair with boquerones began. In case you’re wondering, Spanish anchovies are nothing like the ones Americans put on Cesar salads.
2. Do some light research and leave plenty of room to wander. The more you cram into your itinerary, the less you absorb. Our trick is to pick 3 things each day: one site or museum, one neighborhood to explore and one restaurant. Of course, this isn't always possible if you're in a big city for only a few days, but you get the idea. It’s the random finds that really make your experience so memorable.
3. Eat the food. Go out of your comfort zone, no matter how picky you are. Even just a little. You may surprise yourself! Remember, no chef in his right mind would put something on his menu that wasn't good. Tim and I are pretty adventurous eaters but are somewhat limited by his shellfish allergy. We always bring an allergy translation card along to show our waiter. Works like a charm! On our last trip to Spain, we tried crispy pig's ear, oxtail, artichoke with foie gras sauce, just to name a few.
4. Leave your selfie stick at home. Pretty self explanatory. Amiright?
5. Strike up conversation with the locals. Despite the language barrier, make friends. Natives have the best perspective and the best local tips, which you will not find in a tour guide book. If you show genuine interest in people, you’ll be surprised how excited they are to impart their wisdom and help make your experience in their country better.
Next time you head abroad, make sure you exude world traveler and enjoy!