Your heart is beating faster than usual. Butterflies are fluttering around your stomach. You can barely contain your excitement.
No, you are not in love (well, maybe, but that is your thing).
You have decided to embark on yet another great adventure. The time to depart is coming close and you can only think about the places you are going to discover, the tasty morsels available on local markets and the quirky characters you may bump into.
Hold on your thoughts. Let’s analyze this for a moment.
Do you want to have a wonderful time? Yes. Are things going to run smoothly like a fine tuned watch? Not necessarily.
Even with the realization that things may derail at a given moment, I still believe any trip can be meaningful, rich and fun. It all depends on our attitude.
Here are some thoughts on how to approach travel with the correct attitude.
Do not take things personally
During my travels, I have had many negative experiences. I have been taken advantage of, scammed and mistreated by representatives of the service industry. One time, things got physical when a local hit me on the face (it was a weird confusion).
I have been able to keep my cool since I realize these situations are not exclusive to my person. I do not start to think the situation happened because I am from x country, speak x language or look a certain way.
The reality is that travelers all over the world, and even locals, are exposed to similar situations. Keep on moving and continue enjoying your trip.
Realize you have options
Yes, I said it in the previous paragraphs. Do not let bad situations affect your mind.
However, you have the option to leave a situation if you think you are not receiving respectful or fair treatment.
You do not have to sweat over the small stuff but you can opt to walk out if you fill unwelcomed or uncomfortable.
Let me give you an example. Things are looking fishy at the place you are staying. At the front desk, you are being asked tons (or improper) questions. Or, something disappears from your room and no action is taken by the people in charge. I had an experience where somebody opened the room’s door in the middle of the night.
When there is a little voice on the back of your head telling you that things do not look right, it may be time to take some action. Why? Because, once again, you want to enjoy your trip and make the most of the resources invested.
I know it is not an easy thing to do but you have to be wise enough to know when to walk away. The ocean is full of fish.
Things are not going to be like home
Guess what? The place of your dreams may be very different from your home town or country. As a matter of fact, those differences attracted you to that place. So, why expect it to be the same version of what you are used to?
Open your mind to the differences. You will be able to embrace some while others may irritate you a bit. That should be fine if you are wearing your fresh and cool pants. Remember, travel can teach us a lot about patience.
Plan according to your tastes
If you are going to Paris, do not visit the Louvre if you detest museums. There are tons of people who visit attractions because they are popular or because that is what other people do. And, you know what happens after the fact? They feel dissatisfied with their trip (and they tell all their friends Paris sucks).
Let me tell you one thing. This is your trip! Do the things that move or touch you. That simple step may help you to see a destination on a different light.
Understand political and economic realities
Learning a little bit about the political, economic and cultural realities of a country, can give you great insight on why people act in a determined way (which may seem so odd to you). Make an effort and try to see the world from their perspective.
It is easy to say people from x country are rude and people from y country are cold. But, the overall tone of a population may be related to horrible events that lasted centuries (wars, totalitarian regimes, famine, etc.)
Get your mind off generalizations
To me, generalizations are dangerous. Sometimes, people repeat things so much that those thoughts get stuck on our minds, even if what people is saying is not true or it is a gross exaggeration.
The same thing applies to travel. You may hear country z is this way. Or, the people in country x are the other way. Then, you happen to be on one of those countries and you cannot loosen up. You see what you want to see even when there is evidence telling you the opposite. Are you getting what I am saying?
When traveling to a new place, prepare your mind to be like an empty sheet of paper. There are no preconceptions in there and you, only you, have the power to annotate your own observations and determine what you like (or do not like).
Follow the rules
This should be a given. If you are told certain things are not allowed (or are illegal) in a place you are visiting, then do not do them.
I have never understood why people have a desire to get in arguments, take a ride to the police station or pass the night on a cell. I do not get it.
And, let me make a parenthesis to clarify that I am not only referring to laws and regulations. You should take into consideration what behavior is socially acceptable. Do you know in some countries things like blowing your nose, kissing in public, showing the sole of your feet or laughing with an open mouth are big nos? A little bit of research can help you a lot.
Respect the historic, cultural and natural heritage
This should be a given.
Please, please respect the places you are visiting. Throwing thrash, touching things you are not supposed to touch or climbing over artifacts can risk sites of great historical value (and things may not go well for you after you destroy something).
In the same way, follow indications on natural parks or preserves. A mindless act can destroy valuable flora or fauna.
Show a genuine interest
Showing interest for people, and their culture, will work wonders for you. Listen, ask questions, compliment, smile and share a bit of you. If all these come from the heart (because people can tell), I can guarantee you will have days to remember for a long time.
Take the lead
Do not wait for others to act; lead the way by being friendly and respectful. Greet strangers, make small conversation, ask for recommendations and give honest answers to questions. You have no idea where your positive and cheerful attitude can take you.
Focus on the good
During a visit to a country I should not mention, I got a bit frustrated since some service representatives showed no interest in answering my questions. I kept bumping into the same roadblock.
On the other hand, in that same country, a lady helped me to find my way when I got lost. Another lady gave us complimentary dessert at her restaurant. A guy we met told us about his experience working as a pastry chef in Mexico City. The list goes on and on.
When I think about that country, I think about the people who were kind to me. I chose to see the soul of the country on the actions of those who decided to be a sunray.
For some reason, we human beings like to focus on the negative. But, what if we flip the coin?
Be grateful for the opportunity (the best attitude!)
See travel as an opportunity, an opportunity to spread your wings and reach unimaginable places. If you have been able to seize that opportunity, be grateful. Not everybody is able to follow your steps.
With respect to attitude I read the following quote the other day, “The attitude you bring to the day is what the day will bring to you. Great attitude, great day.”
We can paraphrase that quote and adapt it to the theme of this post in the following way, “The attitude you bring to a trip is what the trip will bring to you. Great attitude, great trip.”
Let that sit for a moment and determine if any of the recommendations in here can help you to transform your travel experience!
I want to open up the comment section for discussion. How do you approach travel from an attitude perspective? What other things can improve the travel experience?
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