It’s hard for some people, traveling to a place that resembles nothing they know from back home and not sure how to react to awkward situations. For many it’s hard to travel with an open mind. Any traveler who has been outside the US or Canada (we are pretty much the same in culture) can attest that the world is culturally far different from us.
In Europe many people are a tad shocked from romance countries ease towards public displays of affection or how fundamentally liberal they are compared to the average American. Many travelers who visit China are put off by how many people spit and how there are no such things as lines. Many travelers hate the way women are treated in many African countries and the Middle East. And I’m personally discouraged with how over 70 countries feel towards gay people.
How do we Travel with an Open Mind?
For me I know every time I leave my own comfortable borders I’m going into something I hardly understand. That’s one of the reasons why I love to travel so much. It’s also one of the reasons you should love to travel. Because the biggest hurdle from not traveling with an open mind is not opening your mind in the first place. Sounds logical and easy but really people put expectations on other cultures that are hardly ever correct. Maybe they read a book or read something somewhere on the internet. Remember that any time you read anything written by someone else, there is a biased opinion.
You may be thinking then why should I listen to you? Well that is for you to decide but I always quote:
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who says it, unless it agrees with your own reason and common sense.”
Understanding this quote more, I like to think like this no matter if I’m traveling or not. Use the power of your mind before you make quick judgments about something and then decide to agree with it or not. The point of travel is to go do it for yourself so you can make your own judgments. You may hear stories from other people but remember that is from their perspective and own bias. You don’t have to agree with them.
Reason and common sense are not enough bases for determining what the truth is. That is there for you to discover and experience on your own. So should you still read travel blogs and travel guides (I still do), but part of it is to not fully trust anything you read until you have done it for yourself. This is one of the fundamental great things about travel and why it’s so exciting!
It’s important to drop the assumptions we already have and to be aware when we are thinking of them in our head. It’s hard to drop things from our mind that are already ingrained but the more you realize you’re doing it the more you realize how crazy they can be. That’s awareness and it’s extremely important when traveling! Just because, on the surface, everything seems to be a certain way doesn’t mean it actually is. Take a moment to step back and reflect. In travel, everybody encounters a lot of frustration, lots of confusion and awkwardness but those are mentally constructed and can be broken. Over the years I’ve learned to be more calm and patient and always aware. It has worked wonders.
While on the Road
We all make snap judgments. I still do to this day but the difference for me is now I realize when I’m doing it. I can see the awareness inside of me awaken every time I make a snap judgment. I may be wrong or right but there is no need to judge something as wrong or right. Instead just leave it as it is. Be the observer, instead of some one who constantly judges everything they see.
While walking down a street in Paris or Buenos Aires or any city, take it all in as an observer who doesn’t label anything. Nothing is nice or ugly or stupid or beautiful. It just is, when you don’t label. Suddenly you begin to feel more at ease and “awaken;” more relaxed when you don’t assume anything or you don’t automatically judge something. You’re the observer now of your mind and able to control those snap judgments. Everything just is and you can enjoy it in its own right.
The food may not be great for one of your meals. There may be locals you find annoying, disgusting or not have your own morals. These are one of the many reasons many people decide to never leave the comfort of their own surroundings. Never bothering to step out and experience something that may be uncomfortable and awkward. But I argue that we need these experiences in our lives to makes our lives richer and to better understand other people who also live in this world. To better understand our own lives. Understanding customs and other ways of life before beginning to label is a step in becoming more aware. Another reason personal travel is so important.
There are plenty of instances where I’ve felt really uncomfortable and awkward but to be honest most of it was in my head. Each time I travel and experience something that isn’t too fun I look back at it as a learning experience and have grown from those moments. I feel I’ve become a better traveler because I’m able to realize I can make it through most situations. It’s true that patience and calmness will help extremely. And so I’m not intimidated to go to another third world country and try their food. Or stay in a run down hotel. It doesn’t bother me because the fact that I’m getting to have that experience already says a lot. I’m one of the lucky ones who can afford to experience new things and can partly put myself in others shoes. That is a gift and shouldn’t be taken lightly. And the pay off for visiting such places is the reward of meeting the people who live there, experience culture and seeing the beauty that this world has to offer.
Ready to Explore
People who are adventurous won’t need much advice from me. They are willing to go to some strange foreign land and experience all the cultural differences this world has to offer. Others are willing to fly to a third world country but will only eat American food while there and never fully immerse themselves in other cultures. Others would never leave the US.
It’s fine to choose whatever you want but to understand the world around you more, you need to drop the judgments and travel with an open mind. You need to open your mind for yourself and then form your own opinion. Or just don’t form any opinion and be the observer that I was talking about earlier. You may be surprised that with extensive traveling under your belt you begin to see the world differently and that your own personal viewpoint also changes. Hopefully for a more open-minded viewpoint!
images by: shawnvoyage