Thursday, May 2, 2013

How to Travel Not Like a Tourist

Guys, I'm going to do it. I'm going to blog every single day in May. What a better way to celebrate the month of my birth than by blogging every single day? Please join me in the challenge, it will be fun to see what we write about every day.
So I'm linking up with Jenni over at Story of My Life for her blog every day in May that she's hosting.
Today's topic is:
Day 2, Thursday: Educate us on something you know a lot about or are good at.
It took me a while to think of what I was going to write about. When we did this as peer teaching in Cambodia, I did mine on how not to get hit by a moto, because I was the first volunteer to get hit by a moto while riding my bike during training. But I figured that won't really be applicable to most of you, so I decided to do something that you might actually be able to use.

I've seen my fare share of douchey tourists, so I thought this if something I know about, and how to avoid being like them.

1. Do your research about the country. How do they like to dress?
Cambodians dress VERY modestly. At site volunteers always wear clothes that cover their shoulder and their knees. In the big cities it's ok to wear more western clothes, but they really appreciate it when you still dress modestly. If you're going into other smaller provinces, always dress modestly. You can't go into parts of Angkor Wat if your knees and shoulders aren't covered.

One time I was in a smaller province's big city and saw 2 women walking in front of me, and I looked to Hal and said "Are they prostitutes?" Well, they turned around and were just tourists, but they were dressed like Cambodian prostitutes. I know it's about 81903 degrees, but cover up, it really doesn't make you much hotter, and they appreciate it.

Also, please do not be type of tourists who wear thai fisherman pants and a loose linen shirt. Please. Those are the worst tourists because they think they are dressing like a local and are soooo cool. I had a friend who used to wear thai fisherman pants because they were comfortable. When she stopped wearing them her host family told her how ugly they were and how they hated them.

2. Learn to say a few words in their language.
Of course in Cambodia we spoke a lot of Khmer and people were always super impressed. It got us crazy discounts a lot of times and it was awesome. But even just learning a small amount can be a huge asset.

Well when we went to the Dominican Republic my husband was able to speak fluently to them in Spanish and it saved us a lot of money. When we went to China last year he also took the time to learn to say a few basic things in Chinese, and to count to 10. This was huge! People were really impressed when he would argue prices with them in Chinese, and I really think it helped save us money. There are so many tourists who just expect everyone to speak English, so it really impresses locals when you take the time to learn even the tiniest bit of their language.

3. Don't expect it to be like a first world country.
I don't know how to stress this enough. Wherever you're going, is not like home, please do not expect it to be like home. If you're planning on going to a 3rd world country, please don't expect it to be like a first world country. No, you cannot drink the water. No, everywhere does not have air conditioning. Yes, transportation may take a lot longer than you are used to. You chose to come to this country for a reason, focus on the amazing things it has to offer and stop complaining about how it doesn't have whatever you're missing from back home.

4. Make friends with the locals you encounter.
This was kind of Hal's specialty. We got so many free rides by just talking to and making friends with the people we were riding with. When you are friendly to locals, I promise you, you will be showered with generosity. They will take care of you, and look out for you while you are with them. They will go out of their way to help you if you are nice to them.

When we took a 12 hour overnight train in China and only had 1 seat for the 2 of us, we made friends with the people we sat by and we had a blast on the train. People let us sit in their seat so we could rest, they taught us to play card games, and it made what could have been a horrible ride, a really enjoyable time.

5. Go somewhere in the country other than the biggest cities.
This is something I really encourage. I promise you, if you go to a different city other than the 2 largest cities, you will have a totally different experience. I always recommend this for Cambodia. I want people to see what Cambodia is like outside of Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat. To me, it's important to get a feel for the country, so I really like to travel to a smaller city.

When we went to Scotland last year we rented a house in this tiny town on an inlet of the ocean. This was amazing. The people in the town were probably the nicest people we met on our entire trip.

What are your tips for not sticking out like the normal tourist?
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itbritt said...

I love this. I just got back from a trip to Malawi, Africa in November - and this is right on the money.

Americans are so wrapped up in themselves that they end up seeming rude. I've found that dressing and speaking the part made making friends (obviously) much easier. People love when you value them by making effort. Everybody should read this before they travel.

Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird said...

I'm terrible when I travel. I think it's because I'm generally shy, so when I'm in another country I get RIDICULOUSLY shy. I don't want to do anything rude or offensive so I totally clam up.

I guess it's better than being a total jerk though, right?

kate said...

this is a fantastic list! i don't even really have anything to add- and i especially love number 3 and 5. amazing advice. i guess i'd only add that people should branch out on their food choices- don't stick to the tourist areas and only get food there- the farther away you go from such areas, the closer the food will be to the country's real food (and it's cheaper!) i found this especially true in places in europe and in china (and mayhaps it might not be the best idea for those coming here to cambodia....tourist food is often the best of the best in terms of khmer food, but they should still grab some street food if they can find it!)

lost in travels said...

these are such great pieces of advice! i always try to be able to say at least thank you and hello in the other language. even if i do butcher it when i say it ; )

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