With coronavirus continuing to rear its head around the globe, many are stuck at home practising self-isolation or in quarantine. If you are planning a trip to take after the pandemic, you may be wondering how you can travel mindfully in a world of mass tourism. The rise of social media, selfie culture and the digital world has completely changed the way that we travel in both good and bad ways.
Thankfully though, more and more people are interested in how they can travel respectfully and not disrupt what makes these cities and cultural places so unique. If you fall into this category and are looking for some tidbits on being a mindful tourist, here are some things to remember.
How To Travel Mindfully In A World Of Mass Tourism
Travel With Purpose
As you are planning your next adventure, ruminate on what you want to take away from it. Are you planning to do some soul searching? Maybe learn how to cook a particular dish or learn a local art like flamenco? Whatever the goal, set it in your mind. Allow yourself to pursue this intention head on and full speed. Setting an intention not only gives the trip more meaning, but it also gives you a clearer ‘why’ on travel.
Learn Some Of The Language
Chances are if you are a fluent or native English speaker, most places in the world will have at least one person who can communicate with you. However, taking the time to learn a few words int the local language can make all the difference. Start with greetings, ‘thank you’, ‘may I have xyz’ and ‘where is xyz’. Or even better, start a free course on Duolingo a few weeks before your trip and learn the basics. Not only is it the polite thing to do, you’ll also pick up a few phrases to impress your friends in the process.
Take Time To Disconnect And Be Present
In the digital world, it is so easy to get caught up in social media. This follows us when we travel, too. Make a rule for yourself to be present at certain times. For example, when you go out to eat, set your phone to silent and take in the flavours of the food your eating. Look around you and partake in some good ole people watching or sit and ruminate on how it feels to be there. What are you most excited about for this trip? Have you been surprised by any of the customs? What has been your favourite experience thus far?
Set A Time Limit For Photos
Sadly, the days of people wandering peacefully around places like the Colosseum and Sagrada Familia are over. Most experience the entire site through their screen taking hundreds of photos, videos, selfies, FB lives etc. Obviously, we all want photos for the gram, and there is nothing wrong with that. Taking a picture and freezing that moment in time is one of the most invaluable souvenirs you can bring home.
However, don’t forget to actually to enjoy the experience! Set a time limit for taking photos. Get them all out of the way when you first get to the site so that you can spend the rest of the time taking in the beauty and wonder.
Connect With Locals
One plus to social media that it is excellent at connecting locals and tourists. One quick Facebook search can lead you straight to local events and small scale parties going on in the area. Hostels, expat bars and run of the mill tourist joints are practical for meeting people you can relate to and share new experiences with, sure. But while you’re at it, why not venture out to meet the people who make the place that you’re in truly special.
Taking a long stroll is a lost art. Nowadays most of us are in a panicked hurry to get to the next place and do the next big thing. In doing this, though, we miss out on the truly precious moments of the in-between. One of the best ways to get to know a place is to just go on a walk. No destination, no set plan, just see ‘where the road takes you’. Find an area that you want to explore and set off down the sidewalk.
Know Your Photo Etiquette
This may seem like a no brainer, but nobody likes the obnoxious tourist shoving their phone lens in the sweet old ladies face for a few likes on Instagram. Plainly put, either do it from a distance or ask politely. If you know that you like to photograph people and have an eye for it – always ask first or better yet, learn how to ask to take a photo in the local language. Very rarely will people tell you no, in fact, they will probably be flattered, but the decent thing to do is ask.
Not everyone has the time or personality to forego plans altogether, but set aside a day or two to have the agenda empty. Get up when you feel like it and spend the day doing whatever intuitively feels right. Let go of the idea that to have a good trip you need everything planned to the t. Take time to be spontaneous and enjoy the feeling of not knowing what’s next.
Kiss Hard Rock Cafes, McDonald’s and Margaritaville goodbye and head for the local joints. After all, did you really travel all the way to Spain to eat an ‘OK’ Hard Rock hamburger? Take in the cultural food of the area and allow the centuries-old dishes to give you a unique experience that just can’t be had in global chains.
Of course not every meal has to be spent playing Russian roulette with food that you may or may not like, but don’t leave without eating local at least a few times. We recommend jotting down a few key foods or drinks that you want to try on your vacation beforehand.