Educating Myself Before Traveling

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Educating Myself Before Traveling

 

Educating Myself Before Traveling

Girls, I’m going to be real with you. I have been around the world and met a lot of fellow tourists and travelers. Most of them are awesome. Some stand out in a bad way. This is what I refer to as the “ignorant tourist,” and this NOT what you want to be. Here’s how to avoid that unfortunate label.

The key to not being an "ignorant tourist"

Planning and booking a trip is the exciting beginning of your travel experience. Choosing destination, flights, and accommodation really get you hyped for the upcoming adventure. While booking the trip it can be easy to overlook the importance of preparing yourself in other ways. Having ideas of what you want to do and see while there are great, but remember, you need to educate yourself about where you’re going. This is the key to not being the “ignorant tourist.”

Learn about the history of your destination

Learn about the history of the place first. And I don’t mean just reading the wiki article summary. Take an hour to read up on the past of the place you’re planning to visit. You’ll want to know what’s happened there. This way when you’re visiting you can appreciate it for more than just its popularity or beauty. Knowing the history will affect the way you perceive what you experience because you won’t be seeing it through the lens of ignorance.

I currently live on Maui, in Hawaii, and I work in one of the Island’s resort hotels. I see a lot of people every day and I can certainly tell which are the “ignorant tourists.” There are a lot of obvious signs. I often have customers come into where I work complaining about the rain ruining their trip, completely unaware that this is Maui’s rainy season. This is minor ignorance compared to how many tourists come to Maui without knowing anything about Hawaii’s history or culture.

I overhear many conversations about how rude the local people are, which displays not only ignorance but self-entitlement. If you read up on Hawaiian culture, you will learn that colonialism forced Hawaii into becoming part of The United States of America. Doesn’t knowing that the locals forcefully had their land, culture, language, and Kingdom taken away from them by foreigners change your perception of why some of them may be rude to tourists?

Maui's not just a vacation resort for tourists; it's a spiritual land that many locals never depart from.

Treating local people like statues and requisites

I also see tourists gawking at locals and even taking selfies with them like they’re statues and not actual human beings. They assume all Hawaiian people go to luau’s and do hula-dancing. It’s discouraging when I see people being uninterested in the truth about the place and people they’re talking about. Educate yourself before you go somewhere. That way you don't belong to the crowd who make themselves look ridiculous to the rest of us who actually cared enough to learn about the place we came to.

Learn about the currency

Also, take the time to learn about the currency of the place you’re visiting. Have an idea of what things cost and make a budget. Bring maps with you. Guidebooks can also be helpful, and I don’t mean restaurant guides. Books that describe the local customs and culture so you can be aware of how the people in that place live their daily lives. Each city has its own unique attributes and it is exciting to discover some of those while you’re there, but you can also preemptively learn about them beforehand.

Before I went to Naples, Italy, for example, I read all about the city and lifestyles of the local people. Had I not done that, I would have been in for a surprise when I arrived and saw how hectic and congested the city traffic is. There is a specific way of maneuvering around those streets and if you don’t care to learn it, you’re endangering yourself. You don’t want to stand out for being an idiot, I’m sorry to say.

Always be respectful 

It’s crucial to be respectful of the places you visit. Understand your position as a visitor and do not feel entitled to everything just because you “paid to be there.” Yes, tourism fuels the economy of many places, but that does not mean you instantly become royalty when you travel. Appreciate things as they are. Respect local people and do not boast arrogance or a superiority complex. Remaining humble while you travel shows not only that you educated yourself, but that you understand your privilege to even be able to be a tourist anyway.

Take care of the place is if it were your own home

Take care of the place as if it were your own personal sanctuary. It should go without saying but don’t litter, damage property, incites issues with locals, or overall do any disrespectful thing to make yourself an ignorant schmuck. It is always disheartening to see families here on Maui who pay no respect to the island and instead see it only as a vacation resort. This is a land with history, spirit, energy, and life. Anyone who comes here ought to be aware of that!

The more and more you travel, the more that you will realize how important it is to be the opposite of what people generally stereotype tourists to be. You can impress people by being prepared, but more importantly, you will be broadening your perspective and therefore deepening your travel experience.

You will connect more with places if you know their history. You will connect more with locals if you’re informed about their culture and customs. You will understand more about why travel is such a meaningful privilege if you stay humble and respect where you’re going. It changes everything when you educate yourself before traveling.

 Education is the best preparation for a trip. It can be fun to be spontaneous, but learning about a place beforehand is important!

Education is the best preparation for a trip. It can be fun to be spontaneous, but learning about a place beforehand is important!

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