Recently, someone mentioned during a twitter chat that traveling lowers inhibitions. Related cliché words certainly abound: carefree, adventure, escape…
But what happens when we become more focused on our own adventure than on contextualizing our experiences? Our freedom ends where the freedom of others begins, as the saying goes. Which is why, amongst other very good reasons, it’s important to think about how our experiences fit into a broader context.
So, as travelers, we should not only think about the shock travelers experience, but also about the shock we, as travelers, impart on others. We should remember that our adventures take place in someone else’s backyard. Your adventure is someone else’s home.
We should show other people’s home environment the same respect and consideration we would want others to show ours, a strategy that applies in many situations, if not all. That includes learning how to communicate respect – which can also differ from country to country. Unfortunately, I think that in the rush of “carefree adventures” things like respect often fall short.
Travelers are of course inherently outsiders and it’s easy to feel like you’re in a place you’re not truly a part of. But you are there. Your physical presence is real and what you say and do still affects those around you, whether it feels real or not. So, as travelers, we need to take the time to learn about social codes, cultural values and respectful communication.
Travel is not about letting loose at the expense of local culture or intercultural relationships. Travel is about expanding our understanding of reality. Contextualizing our experiences is, in my eyes, the heart and soul of travel and maybe just as exciting, if not more so, than the experiences themselves.